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Despite Governor’s Opposition, Archbishop Settles Syrian Refugee Family in Indianapolis

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From The Indianapolis Star:

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has settled a Syrian family in the city despite Gov. Mike Pence’s announcement that he would halt the settlement of refugees in the state.

Catholic Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announced Tuesday that the family of four arrived safely in Indianapolis on Monday night. The federal government, in part, sought to settle the family in Indianapolis because they already have family living here, said Greg Otolski, archdiocese spokesman.

Pence has not changed his stance on stopping refugee settlement here following the Paris terror attacks, despite questions about whether he had the constitutional authority to do so.

The governor’s office Tuesday morning released a statement that said the state will continue to suspend its involvement in the resettlement “until the federal government takes action to address the concerns raised about this program.”

Nonprofit organizations handle the resettlement, bolstered by federal funds given to the state for employment training, English language classes and case management services.

… In the wake of Pence’s opposition to resettlement, Catholic Charities received an outpouring of offers for financial support for the family, Otolski said.

If the nonprofit meets continued resistance from the state regarding federal and state benefits, Otolski said he is confident Catholic Charities could meet the needs of the family.

“There is an overwhelming amount of people calling, literally offering a house for them to stay in,” Otolski said.

Tobin said he met with Pence last week about the family, and explained that they were fleeing violence in their home country.

“I listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees,” Tobin said in a statement. “I informed the governor prior to the family’s arrival that I had asked the staff of Catholic Charities to receive this husband, wife and their two small children as planned.”

Pence “respectfully disagrees” with the Church, the statement said. It cited a statement from Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, who said the refugee program is vulnerable to extremists.

“Despite these facts, the administration continues to ignore calls from governors of both parties, as well as a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House, to pause and strengthen the program,” the statement said.

Read more. 

The archbishop’s full statement:

I would like to bring you up to date regarding the question of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis resettling a family of refugees from Syria. The family arrived safely in Indianapolis last night.

I thank Governor Pence for meeting with me last Wednesday, when I was able to explain in some detail the plight of this family as well as the role of the Archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services program in welcoming them to Indianapolis, where the family already has some relatives. I listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees. I informed the Governor prior to the family’s arrival that I had asked the staff of Catholic Charities to receive this husband, wife and their two small children as planned.

Three years ago, this family fled the violence of terrorists in their homeland of Syria. After two years of extensive security checks and personal interviews, the United States government approved them to enter our country. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was asked to help resettle this family through its regular participation in a program that is a public-private partnership between the federal government and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services.

For 40 years the Archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services has welcomed people fleeing violence in various regions of the world. This is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition.

We welcome this family during Advent, a time when the Christian community asks God to renew our hope and recognize God’s saving power among us. As we wait with hope during this season of Advent, I ask all people of good will to pray for peace in our homes, local communities and throughout the world.

Photo: Archdiocese of Indianapolis

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