As Syrian refugee debate intensifies, Indiana and Gov. Pence’s ban in the national spotlight

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence talks to the media about the putting a halt to the Syrian refugee program Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, at the Indianapolis Airport. Pence on Tuesday criticized Donald Trump’s call for the nation to ban Muslims from entering the United States, as he continued to defend his own decision to halt the settlement of Syrian refugees into Indiana. (Matt Kryger/The Indianapolis Star via AP) NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

INDIANAPOLIS – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll immediately suspend the Syrian refugee program on day one if elected president.

“We should temporarily suspend immigration entirely from regions where safe and adequate screening cannot occur,” Trump said at a rally earlier in the week.

The debate has intensified  in recent days after the bombings in New York and New Jersey.

And Indiana is playing a key role.

Gov. Mike Pence has called for “common sense” profiling in wake of the attacks.

“We can uphold the freedom and rights of our citizens and still support the common sense practices of law enforcement officers to identify people who represent a threat to our families and communities,” Pence told WUSA-TV.

A looming decision impacting Pence now lies with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court is weighing whether the governor has the authority to ban Syrian refugees from entering the state.

Last week a three-judge panel heard arguments, at times questioning the state’s case.

“Are Syrians the only Muslims that Indiana fears?” Judge Richard A. Posner asked.

“Well, this has nothing to do with religion,” Thomas Fisher responded, Indiana Solicitor General. “This has to do with what’s going on in Syria.”

“Oh, of course it does,” Posner said.

“Oh, I object to that, your honor,” Fisher said.

Posner continued to press Fisher on why Indiana’s policy focused strictly on Syrians.

“And the question is, does that make any sense,” Posner said.

“I think it does when the director of the FBI…” Fisher began but was interrupted.

“Oh, honestly,” Posner said. “You are so out of it.”

On Tuesday, the Muslim Alliance of Indiana hosted a forum highlighting Central Indiana Muslims and responding, organizers said, to widespread misconceptions.

“The face is there are 8 million Muslim Americans, and we are not bad,” Rima Shahid said, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana. “We are like everybody else, and certain political rhetoric and certain things that have been happening all over the world make us all look like terrorists. And that is simply not the case.”

Since Indiana’s refugee ban was put on hold in February, an estimated 150 Syrian families have relocated to Indiana.

Trump and Pence are campaigning on a promise to end the program. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has said she wants to increase the number of refugees the U.S. allows in.

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