Court re­buffs Pence plan to refuse Syr­ian refugees

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

States that refuse to help re­set­tle Syr­ian refugees are guilty of il­le­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Mon­day, de­liv­er­ing a ju­di­cial re­buke to GOP vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mike Pence, who, as Indiana’s gov­er­nor, had tried to stop Syr­i­ans from be­ing shipped into his state.

Judge Richard Pos­ner, writ­ing for the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Sev­enth Cir­cuit, said there’s no ev­i­dence that Syr­i­ans are more dan­ger­ous than other refugees, and he said even if they are, al­low­ing Indiana to refuse to re­set­tle them would only foist the prob­lem onto neigh­bor­ing states.

“Fed­eral law does not al­low a gov­er­nor to de­port to other states im­mi­grants he deems dan­ger­ous,” Judge Pos­ner wrote.

He said if Mr. Pence has wor­ries, the gov­er­nor should re­port his fears to fed­eral bu­reau­crats for re­dress.

The court said Indiana agen­cies don’t have to co­op­er­ate with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but the state can’t ban Syr­ian refugees, nor can it or­der non­profit groups to stop help­ing the re­set­tle­ment ef­forts.

A num­ber of states balked last year when Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced he wanted to ac­cept some 10,000 Syr­ian refugees in fis­cal year 2016. The ad­min­is­tra­tion blew past that goal, with a fi­nal tally of 12,587 Syr­i­ans as of the last day of the fis­cal year.

Mr. Obama hasn’t set a Syr­ian tar­get for 2017, but at the pace of the last few months, the U.S. could process as many as 30,000. Still, the year got off to a slow start with just 17 refugees in the first few days: a fam­ily of nine that was re­set­tled in New York and a fam­ily of eight set­tled in Massachusetts.

Mr. Pence, a first-term gov­er­nor, had sought to beg out of the Syr­ian refugee pro­gram in 2015. He is­sued an or­der di­rect­ing that his state refuse to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral re­set­tle­ment. Indiana also pres­sured lo­cal non­prof­its who as­sist in re­set­tle­ment to refuse Syr­i­ans.

But the ap­peals court re­jected that, say­ing it amounted to sin­gling out a na­tion­al­ity, which vi­o­lates equal pro­tec­tion guar­an­tees in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Judge Pos­ner took sev­eral swipes at Mr. Pence, whose po­lit­i­cal pro­file has risen since he was tapped for the GOP ticket this year.

The judge said there’s no ev­i­dence that Indiana is a hot des­ti­na­tion for Syr­ian refugees, and said other states that had taken a firm stand against re­set­tle­ment have since relaxed their op­po­si­tion.

Indiana took in 42 fam­i­lies, for a to­tal of 174 Syr­ian refugees, in fis­cal year 2016.

Kara Brooks, a spokes­woman for Mr. Pence, said they acted out of con­cern for the safety of their res­i­dents, and said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion it­self has ac­knowl­edged the po­ten­tial for dan­ger.

“The state of Indiana took de­ci­sive ac­tion last year to sus­pend re­set­tle­ment of Syr­ian refugees af­ter the ter­ror­ist at­tack in Paris and be­cause the FBI and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity ac­knowl­edged se­cu­rity gaps with re­gard to screen­ing refugees from Syria,” Ms. Brooks said.

Im­mi­grant rights and civil lib­er­ties groups cheered the judge’s de­ci­sion, say­ing it reaf­firms the U.S. com­mit­ment to refugees.

Mr. Obama has set a goal for re­set­tling 110,000 refugees to­tal in 2017 — up from 85,000 the pre­vi­ous year and 70,000 in 2015.

Judge Pos­ner, who has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a cru­sad­ing ju­rist, said he has dis­cov­ered no ev­i­dence in the pub­lic record of any Syr­ian refugees who have been ar­rested or pros­e­cuted for ter­ror­ist acts in the U.S.

The judge did not ad­dress the case of You­nis Al-Jayab, charged in Jan­uary af­ter au­thor­i­ties said he trav­eled to Syria and fought with An­sar al-Is­lam. Mr. Al-Jayab was an Iraqi, but he was ap­proved as a refugee while liv­ing in Syria in 2012.

U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials in­sist their sys­tem is good, and say their of­fi­cers are trained to spot fraud­u­lent ap­pli­ca­tions. Some 7 per­cent of ap­pli­cants from Syria have had their refugee re­quests re­jected.

But FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey last week re­it­er­ated his cau­tion that the U.S. doesn’t have ac­cess to records from Syria, so there may be red flags of­fi­cials are miss­ing.

“I can’t query what’s not in our hold­ings,” he told Congress.


A fed­eral ap­peals court ruled that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence can­not refuse to ac­cept Syr­ian refugees into his state, say­ing dis­crim­i­nat­ing against refugees based on ori­gin is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

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