A federal appeals court struck down an attempt by Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana to block the resettling of Syrian refugees in his state.
On Oct. 3, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a federal judge in Indianapolis that claimed Pence could not prove that the refugees are a security threat to his state, CBS News reports.
In their ruling, the three-judge panel scolded Pence for “nightmare speculation.”
In November 2015, Pence sought to block the resettling of any Syrian refugees in Indiana, citing the terror attack carried out by Islamic State group (ISIS) affiliates in Paris. In his order, Pence attempted to withhold any federal funding for the Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indiana, which helps Syrian refugees resettle in the U.S., providing them with housing, job training and social services to help them assimilate.
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He had stated that he was concerned that ISIS militants were embedded among the Syrian refugees and that allowing them in Indiana would compromise his constituents’ security.
In their ruling, the appeals court noted that they were given no evidence that Syrian refugees posed a security risk.
“The governor of Indiana believes, though without evidence, that some of these persons were sent to Syria by ISIS to engage in terrorism and now wish to infiltrate the United States in order to commit terrorist acts here,” the appeals court wrote. “No evidence of this belief has been presented, however."
The Indianapolis judge who had originally overruled the order characterized his efforts to block Syrian refugees as discriminatory.
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The appeals court concluded that federal law does not grant a state governor the right “to deport to other states immigrants he deems dangerous.”
Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks issued a statement defending the governor’s decision.
“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,” she said, according to The Washington Times.
12,587 Syrian refugees were admitted into the U.S. during the fiscal year of 2016, which ended on Sept. 30. During that time period, 174 refugees were relocated to Indiana.
Pence is the running mate of GOP nominee Donald Trump. On Oct. 4, the Indiana governor will square off with Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia for the only vice presidential debate.
“The stakes for Mike Pence are twofold,” Ken Owen, an Indianapolis-based anchor who had moderated a Pence debate in 2012, told The Washington Post. “No. 1, he clearly does not want to damage his running mate’s chances… the other challenge is to be somewhat his own man.”
Owen added that Pence could position himself for a 2020 presidential bid if Trump loses in this election cycle, noting that the Indiana governor “has always had presidential ambitions.”