Here's how Mike Pence tried to keep Syrian refugees out of Indiana, and why it didn't work


As Mike Pence appears in Virginia at the 2016 vice presidential debate, a federal court decision looms large over his leadership back in Indiana. On Monday, a federal court blocked Pence's move to bar Syrian refugees from being settled in Indiana. 

According to NPR, the three federal judges who unanimously ruled against the Republican governor of Indiana's motion are deeply conservative. As Hillary Clinton pulls ahead in the presidential race and millions of Americans watch Tuesday's debate, here's why this federal ruling matters. 

What the Syrian refugee crisis is

As the civil war in Syria rages well into its fifth year, more than 11 million people have been displaced in the country, according to the BBC. Another 250,000 people have been killed. The war has seen the rise of ISIS and a disintegration of Syria as a functioning country.

In September of last year, the White House said it would up its intake of refugees from 1,500 to 10,000. In late August, the U.S. met that goal and accepted its 10,000th Syrian refugee. This was despite constant protest in late 2015 from Republican legislators and governors across the country — and, of course, from eventual Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. 

Bulent Kilic/Getty Images

As Syrian refugees flooded European countries, Trump called for a moratorium on accepting them into the U.S. He notoriously said there should be a "total and complete shutdown" on foreign Muslims entering the country.

What Mike Pence did to bar Syrian refugees from coming to Indiana

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris late last year, Pence said in a statement that Indiana would not resettle refugees, according to the Indianapolis Star. "Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers," Pence said, joining the sentiment of governors from at least 15 other states.

Darron Cummings/AP

But the recent federal court ruling has said Pence does not have the authority to invite or stop resettlement; that power lies with the president. 

"Gov. Pence may not constitutionally or legally discriminate against a particular nationality of refugees that are extensively vetted by the federal government," said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, to NPR.

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