Pence administration vows to use “every legal means” to block Syrian refugees

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gov. Mike Pence’s administration said it will continue to block Syrian refugees from entering Indiana until the federal government improves its security checks.

A statement from the governor’s spokeswoman came on the same day when attorneys for the state appeared before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Attorneys for the Pence administration were challenging a federal court ruling that found Pence’s attempt to block Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana was discriminatory. The panel of appellate judges did not issue a ruling Wednesday, but heard from attorneys for the state, the ACLU and Exodus Refugee International — a group that helps refugees resettle in Indiana. Exodus and the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging that the Pence administration overreached in its decision to strip benefits from refugees and prevent them from resettling in Indiana.

The Pence administration has remained adamant that the FBI has concerns over the State Department’s ability to regulate who enters the United States. Pence’s concern increased following the Paris terrorist attacks.

“The Governor’s position has not changed. So long as the Obama administration continues to refuse to address gaps in the screening of Syrian refugees acknowledged by the FBI and a bipartisan majority in Congress, Hoosiers can be assured that the Pence administration will continue to use every legal means available to suspend this program in Indiana unless and until federal officials take steps to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said in a statement provided to I-Team 8.

Marwan Batman, a Syrian refugee who resettled in Indiana in 2014, said he was saddened by the state’s position. Batman, who works an international market in Fishers, fled the war-torn Syria with his family in 2014 after the fighting between the government and opposition forces cost him his home and his business.

“I lost everything except his mom and sister. I lost a home,” Barman said, speaking through a translator. When asked if they were bombed? The translator said: “Yes.”

When asked directly about his opinion of the Pence’s administration’s stance on Syrian refugees, Batman said: “I was really sad. And (I) felt sorry for my friends and family because there is no place to go,” he said.

Cole Varga, executive director of Exodus Refugee International, told I-Team 8 by phone that he expects a ruling in their favor.

He said the group is expecting to help a few more refugees resettle in Indiana this month.

“Refugees get accused of a lot of things. In reality, they have lost everything. Their lives have been turned upside down. The reason they are starting over is that they have kids and want to have a decent life. They are fleeing terrorists, They are not terrorists themselves.”

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