A Syrian family that has waited for three years for asylum in the United States was set to be resettled in Indiana on tomorrow (Nov. 19). Instead the mother, father, and four-year-old boy were diverted to Connecticut due to a last-minute decision by Indiana governor Mike Pence.
Pence is one of at least 31 governors who said their states would not accept refugees from Syria following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 129—despite the lack of proof that any Syrians were involved.
It is still not clear whether US states have the legal authority to pick and choose which refugees will be resettled in their states, under a federally-run program that includes extensive vetting over several years. The Indiana case may become an important test of the states’ powers.
Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indiana social services agency handling the family’s case, said that due to Pence’s decision, all arrivals of Syrian refugees in the state would be suspended until further notice. The family will now go to New Haven, Connecticut, where refugees have been welcomed by authorities. The family has been in exile in Jordan since 2011, after escaping from the war-torn Syrian city of Homs.
Quartz reached out to governor Pence’s office and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and will update this post with any new information.
Exodus Refugee Immigration is calling for Indiana residents to pressure the governor to reverse his decision. The group told Quartz: “We are disheartened by Governor Pence’s call to suspend Syrian resettlement in Indiana. This is a misplaced reaction to the recent attacks in Paris—one that is not based in fact but in fear. It is a reaction that blames the very people fleeing ISIS and puts them at further risk.”
Refugees face the most rigorous background checks out of any group arriving in the United States, are are subject to lengthy overseas vetting by intelligence agencies and the US Department of Homeland Security. The process can take from 18 months to several years to complete.