On the eve of his Vice-Presidential debate, an all-conservative federal appeals court panel ruled against Gov. Mike Pence and his attempt to ban Syrians’ resettlement in his state.
The court noted that Pence has no authority to withhold funding from refugee resettlement organizations based on fear and “nightmare speculation.”
The court upheld a lower court judge in barring Pence from interfering with the distribution of federal funds to resettle Syrian refugees in his state. The appeals court panel said that federal law bars discrimination based on nationality.
In a unanimous opinion, the appeals court said Gov. Pence acted illegally in accepting federal money for refugee resettlement and then refusing to use that money to aid Syrian refugees.
The panel rejected Pence’s argument that terrorists are posing as Syrian refugees to gain entry into the U.S., calling it a “nightmare speculation” based on no evidence. Indeed, the court said, the state presented no evidence that any Syrian refugee had been involved in a terrorist act in the U.S.
In a twist, one of the judges from the all-conservative panel is also on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia, should Trump win the Presidency in November.
More from NPR:
Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said the court’s decision on Monday underscores that “Gov. Pence may not constitutionally or legally discriminate against a particular nationality of refugees that are extensively vetted by the federal government.”
Pence argued that the state’s position was not based on discrimination but on the threat that Syrian refugees pose to the safety of residents of Indiana.
A notable passage from the court’s decision below:
Writing for the court, Judge Richard Posner called Pence’s argument “the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive, he isn’t discriminating.”
Posner went on to add that “that of course would be racial discrimination, just as [Pence’s] targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”