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Appeals court accuses Pence of ‘discrimination’ against Syrian refugees

Appeals court accuses Pence of ‘discrimination’ against Syrian refugees
© Greg Nash

A federal appeals court on Monday ruled against Indiana Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSimon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp defends Pence book deal: report Gohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' House Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection MORE’s efforts to block payments to a nonprofit assisting with resettlement of Syrian refugees.

In harsh language, a three-judge panel on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals accused the Republican vice presidential nominee of unfairly attacking Exodus Refugee Immigration for resettling the refugees, despite “no evidence” that the migrants might be terrorists in disguise. 

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“[I]t is nightmare speculation,” Judge Richard Posner declared in his opinion.  

Pence’s policy barring payments to the organization “is discrimination on the basis of nationality,” Posner declared.

The ruling, which affirmed an injunction handed down by a lower court, is a harsh indictment of the governor's policy, and comes a day before he is set to debate Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineNew York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Senate Democrats ramp up push to limit Biden's war powers Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw MORE (Va.), the Democratic nominee for president.

The decision is all the more jarring given the conservative slant of the court.

Both Posner and Judge Frank Easterbrook, another member of the three judge-panel, were appointed by Ronald Reagan.

Judge Diane Sykes, the final judge on the appeals panel, was listed by Donald Trump as one of his potential picks to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, should he be elected president.

Pence had barred Exodus from receiving money to provide social services to resettled refugees, despite the existence of a contract the group had signed with the state of Indiana. Refugees from Syria, he had claimed, posed a terror threat to his state, and needed to be blocked.

That echoes the rhetoric of his running mate, who said last month: “We shouldn’t have them in the country. We don’t know who these people are. We have no idea. This could be the all-time great Trojan horse. We have no idea who they are.”

Posner noted that there is no evidence that Syrian refugees pose a security threat to the U.S.

“Indeed, as far as can be determined from public sources, no Syrian refugees have been arrested or prosecuted for terrorist acts or attempts in the United States,” Posner wrote. “And if Syrian refugees do pose a terrorist threat, implementation of the governor’s policy would simply increase the risk of terrorism in whatever states Syrian refugees were shunted to.”

A spokeswoman for Pence noted that federal national security officials have nonetheless warned about “gaps” in their ability to screen the refugees and the “potential” for extremists to target the refugee program.

“The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Gov. Pence's highest priority,” Kara Brookes said in a statement.

Refugees coming to the U.S. undergo a lengthy security evaluation that can last up to two months, the court noted.

In January, federal officials arrested two Middle Eastern refugees on terrorist charges, but neither of them were from Syria.