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Indiana governor declines to meet with Syrian refugees

December 12, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declined to meet with Syrian refugees at a Friday event organizers hoped might change his mind about trying to bar such refugees from settling in the state.

Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said Friday the governor had "graciously declined" to meet with the refugees due to a prior commitment to take part in another event.

Indiana's chapter of the Syrian American Council invited Pence to attend a Friday evening event to meet with Syrian refugees in Indianapolis in the hopes it might persuade him to reconsider his position on settling Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Pence is one of more than 30 governors, all but one of them Republicans, who have sought to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees over security concerns following last month's deadly Paris attacks.

Omar Hossino, spokesman for the national Syrian American Council, said the group is working with Pence's office to reschedule a possible meeting with Syrian refugees in the coming weeks.

"We understand the governor's noble intention of keeping Indiana safe," Hossino told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1TFCimA ). "We want to show the process is secure."

Pence met last week with Archbishop Joseph Tobin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis to request that Catholic Charities not bring a Syrian refugee family of four to Indiana until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees in light of the Paris terror attacks.

Tobin welcomed that Syrian couple and their two small children to Indianapolis anyway on Monday night, saying that helping refugees "is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued Pence last month over his directive that state agencies not assist with the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the state. That suit was filed on behalf of Indianapolis-based nonprofit Exodus Refugee Immigration.

Pence said this week he would allow federal money such as food stamps, temporary monetary assistance and health care benefits to go to Syrian refugees settling in Indiana.

The ACLU of Indiana said Wednesday it will continue to press its lawsuit against Pence despite his change of tone.

The Obama administration has said the vetting process for refugee resettlements is thorough and that states lack legal standing to block the funding.

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