- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A federal judge denied Indiana’s request to delay a court hearing until a refugee relocation group that sued Gov. Mike Pence hands over years’ worth of requested documents.

U.S District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on Tuesday granted the state a small delay, postponing a January hearing until February. But she said the hearing won’t be postponed again, even if Exodus Refugee Immigration doesn’t turn over the documents that the state wants.

That, she ruled, is because there is an urgency to the request made by Exodus, which wants to overturn Pence’s order barring state agencies from participating in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Exodus sued Pence in November, arguing that it would be irreparably harmed if vital funding is withheld under his order, which was issued amid security concerns following the deadly Paris attacks.

Agencies controlled by Pence distribute both state and federal assistance to help resettle refugees in Indiana. That includes food stamps, Medicaid, temporary cash benefits, as well as reimbursements for groups such as Exodus that rent apartments and make other preparations.



Exodus requested a temporary injunction that would block Pence’s order until the case was resolved, but Pence’s attorneys have dragged their feet, subpoenaing records and emails dating back to 2011, according to the ACLU of Indiana, which represents Exodus.

ACLU attorney Ken Falk said in a court filing that the state’s request for about five years’ worth of documents was “breathtaking” in scope and had “nothing to do with the issues in this case.”

“Given that all Exodus does is resettle refugees” the state is basically demanding “all documents about all aspects of (Exodus) functions since 2011,” he said.

Molly Gillaspie, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office represents Pence in the case, disputed the ACLU’s characterization.

“The state’s discovery requests in this case are not unusually broad in size or scope, rather they are typical for cases of this magnitude,” she wrote in a statement.

Gillaspie also insisted the judge’s ruling was a decision that “granted everything” the attorney general’s office has asked for.

The handling of the matter has proven tricky for Pence, whose authority to block Syrian refugees from coming to Indiana has been questioned by legal experts and President Barack Obama’s administration.

Pence initially made bold public statements forbidding state agencies from assisting in the resettlement of Syrian refugees. But he backtracked from that rhetoric after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis ignored his order and resettled a Syrian family in the city despite his objection.

The Pence administration has since denied that he has retreated from his initial position, though the Republican governor struck a more humanitarian tone in recent weeks and said he will not block state agencies from distributing federal refugee aid to Syrians.

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