Judge Blocks Indiana’s Syrian Refugee Order

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -

A federal judge on Monday blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s order that barred state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana, saying the governor’s directive “clearly discriminates” against refugees from the war-torn country.

The ruling grants a request for a preliminary injunction from Exodus Refugee Immigration, which helps resettle refugees in Indiana. The group sued in November, shortly after Pence issued his order, saying the change would hurt aid groups by withholding reimbursements for housing and medical care to assist Syrian refugees.

More than two dozen states, most with Republican governors, have taken similar action to suspend Syrian resettlement programs. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Texas, Alabama and Pennsylvania, according to the judge’s ruling.

In her 36-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said the state had a compelling concern to protect its residents. But she said withholding federal grant money from the aide group “in no way furthers the state’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the refugee group by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the state was violating the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act by accepting refugees from other countries but not from Syria.