Refugee Resettlement: Indiana Lawsuit

refugees leaving HungaryUnsurprisingly, the ACLU has jumped into the controversy over the Obama administration’s announced intent to bring in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. The issue has arisen in Indiana where Governor Mike Pence has asked the administration not to send any of the new Syrian refugees to the state.

The ACLU has filed its suit against the governor on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. According to a local Indiana news outlet,, the organization is “a nonprofit corporation that receives federal money through the state’s Office of Refugee Programs … to assist in resettlement of federally approved and screened refugees.” Thus, they have a financial stake in receiving an additional flow of refugees to settle in the state.

The ACLU argues that the state has no right to limit the settlement of refugees in the state. According to a spokesperson for the ACLU, “He does not have the power to pick and choose between which lawfully admitted refugees he is willing to accept. Singling out Syrian refugees for exclusion from Indiana is not only ethically wrong, it is unconstitutional. Period.”

This lawsuit will likely bring into focus the issue of whether there is in fact a requirement for the government to adjust its refugee resettlement program to take into consideration the concerns of the state governments, as provided for in the law. Can a state government limit refugee resettlement on the basis of public concerns over terrorism or over the fiscal costs or the impact on the community school systems? Or, is the consultation with state governments only window dressing?

This issue of the role of state governments in the refugee resettlement process is only one of the issues currently highlighted by the surge of Middle Easterners fleeing fighting. The other is whether the federal legislative branch has the ability to place limits on the executive branch’s plans for admitting refugees without resorting to showdown over funding for the program. Once again the battle lines are drawn between an imperial president and a legislative branch focused on checking the president’s overreach. But past performance is no guarantee of future failure.

avatar About Jack Martin

Jack, who joined FAIR in 1995, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar Pam says:

    All the States need to stop taking funds from the Federal Government for refugees. They need to stop relying on the Federal government period. The more our State become tied to them the more that president and other presidents will take advantage of it.
    The UNION STATES need to keep their sovereignty, PERIOD!!
    And let’s put ACLU out of business. They are NOT for We the People.

  2. avatar me says:

    AMERICAN civil liberties Union. Not Syrian liberties. The ACLU is useless as hell. Not ever for the American people. Time to shut them down.

  3. The ACLU is TOTALLY Self-serving

    Grabbing up money from our tax debts like it was candy….

    • avatar No Change says:

      Interestingly enough whatever they do does stand for what they stand for……………..the difference is that it is being applied to non-citizens……………..then just a thought………we practice what e believe that is what makes us what we are….Americans… if we just do it to ourselves then… this just a way of life or just a big lie…?

      And then by doing this……in this case ACLU perhaps they are failing into a crack of what or who we are to the point it makes them look bad…….? well no differently from Freedom of Speech……and the many times it was not respected thought our existence as a country…..

      So basically if there people were Irish, Scottish Sweedish there would not be an issue for the ACLU and The People…… is this favoritism I mean if we look beyond the issues…these people are innocent and per people say…we created this wave because of the War in the middle East……………then if they become terrorrists because nowadays you know no more…even our own become…….ANYWAY…..a BIG MESS….