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Friday, February 12, 2016

Ind. Courts - Still more on "ACLU Lawsuit against Indiana Governor Seeks Relief for Syrian Refugees" [Updated Feb. 14]

Updating this ILB post from Jan. 18th, AG Zoeller has issued a news release on the argument in federal court today, before Judge Pratt, on plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Today a federal judge heard oral arguments in a lawsuit over whether the State can suspend payments to a nonprofit contractor that receives public funds to subsidize refugee resettlement costs. The State argued the federal court should deny the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction and should not enjoin, or halt, the Governor’s temporary and partial suspension of payments.

The lawsuit is Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc. v. Pence and Wernert, heard in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, case number 1:15-CV-01858.

[Update 2/14/16] Kristine Guerra of the Indianapolis Star had this story this weekend on Friday's oral argument. The long story begins:
A federal judge must decide whether Gov. Mike Pence can push forward with his decision to block funds intended to help Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.

Federal district Judge Tanya Walton Pratt heard arguments in a nearly packed courtroom Friday, about three months after Pence and majority of the governors in the country suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. The decision was in response to terrorist attacks in Paris and statements from federal officials about security concerns involving refugees coming from Syria.

A lawsuit filed by a local nonprofit that helps refugees resettle in Indiana claims Pence does not have the authority to intrude in immigration issues, which are exclusively in federal territory. The state argued in court records that the suspension of federal funds is not intended to punish refugees who want to come to Indiana; rather, it's a response to "mounting evidence" that terrorists may attack Western countries by posing as refugees.

The nonprofit, Exodus Refugee Immigration, is asking Pratt to issue a ruling that would prevent state officials from blocking federal dollars until the case is resolved. Pratt said she will make a decision before the end of the month.

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk, who represents Exodus, said not providing the funds would harm the group financially because the nonprofit will lose funding to prepare for the arrival of refugees who have already passed federal screening and will come to Indiana, regardless of Pence's order.

Nonprofit groups like Exodus receive federal funds, funneled through state agencies, for employment training, English language classes, case management and other services for refugees. Exodus pays for those services and is reimbursed by the state.

Falk said the governor cannot "pick and choose" who should receive financial support.

"Indiana simply cannot insinuate itself in the area of foreign policy and that's exactly what it's doing here," Falk said in court. "If every state in America chose to do what Indiana did, then refugee resettlement would grind to a halt."

Accepting refugees from other countries but not those from Syria is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, Falk said. He added it discriminates against someone based on national origin, a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 12, 2016 02:16 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts