Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Court Confirms Mike Pence Discriminated Against Syrian Refugees

In what must be a shock to Mike Pence, Indiana's Republican Governor and Donald Trump's running mate, a federal appeals court confirmed that Pence did in fact discriminate against Syrian refugees. Pence insisted that his action in denying funding to any state agency that assisted Syrian refugees was not an act of discrimination. However, both the Federal District Court and Federal Appeals Court pointed out that Pence's action was discriminatory, and that he is going to lose the underlying lawsuit.

Last year, amid the crisis in Syria causing millions of people to be displaced from their homes, over half of which being children, countries around the world opened their borders and hearts. The United States has only accepted a small fraction of the displaced peoples. In Indiana, Pence wanted to impose an outright ban on refugees. However, in no uncertain terms, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't buying it.

What Did Mike Pence Do Wrong?

As Judge Posner put it, Mike Pence discriminated against the Syrian refugee population because of their nationality or national origin. National origin discrimination, under the law, is virtually the same as race discrimination. The two illegal activities share many of the same legal elements that must be proven to establish a case. The primary difference is that race discrimination cares about a person's skin color while national origin discrimination looks to a person's country of origin.

Judge Posner also points out an important fact about Pence's argument in favor of denying refugees: it is based on Pence's highly speculative fear. Posner explains that Pence provided no evidence to support his discriminatory contention that terrorists would get across US borders disguised as Syrian refugees. Not only does Posner explain that Pence failed to present evidence to support his argument, Posner explains that there isn't even any evidence in existence available to support Pence's argument.

Not Pence's First Discrimination Controversy

Prior to the two federal courts clearly explaining to Pence that he violated federal law and discriminated against Syrian refugees based on their national origin, Pence was involved in a controversy concerning the LGBT community. Pence gained much notoriety when he signed an Indiana bill that would provide religious individuals the right to refuse service to customers based on their religious beliefs.

While this sounds somewhat innocuous, these types of "religious freedom" laws are extremely controversial because they open the door to allowing religious people to intentionally discriminate against people of different faiths and sexual orientations. Not only did Pence sign the law, he advocated for it. However, after pressure from the business world, Pence begrugingly amended the law.

Related Resources: