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Federal Judge: Indiana Governor's Order "Clearly Discriminates" Against Syrian Refugees

The judge ordered the state to stop taking actions that make it more difficult for a nonprofit group to help with the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana.

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WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday ruled that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence overstepped his authority when he ordered state agencies not to pay refugee resettlement agencies with federal grant funds for their work helping to resettle Syrian refugees.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt barred the state from "taking any actions to interfere with or attempt to deter the resettlement of Syrian refugees" by Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., which brought the lawsuit. This, Pratt wrote, includes a bar on the state withholding any of the funds due to Exodus.

"The State’s conduct clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin," U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt wrote in the order. "Although the State says it has a compelling reason for doing so—the safety of Indiana residents— the withholding of federal grant funds from Exodus that it would use to provide social services to Syrian refugees in no way furthers the State’s asserted interest in the safety of Indiana residents."

The lawsuit — brought by Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., and backed by the ACLU — was filed this past November, shortly after Pence issued the directive in the wake of the terrorists attacks in Paris that left more than 110 people dead.

A federal judge in Texas earlier this month rejected Texas' attempt to challenge the Obama administration's decisions on refugee resettlements.

Read the order:


Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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