Refugee ban’s image impact on Indiana & Pence

Governor Mike Pence

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana is just one of the more than 30 states calling for a ban on Syrian refugees, but it’s not the first time the state has been in the spotlight for a controversial decision. The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, or RFRA, put Indiana and Governor Pence on the nation’s radar this past spring.

While Governor Pence received plenty of criticism for RFRA, local political expert Andy Downs doesn’t think the refugee ban will bring as much negativity to him and the state.

“This is a reaction I think a lot of people expected,” Downs said.

Governor Pence is known for his conservative decisions, and Downs said this latest one is no different. He thinks many people have already formed their opinion of Indiana’s leader.

“I think there were a lot of people who were for him or against him because of RFRA and other issues. This probably falls along similar lines, especially since it’s getting labeled as partisan the way it is. I think the lines have already been drawn, and I doubt this is throwing too many people into one camp or the other. I think they’re already in one camp, and they’re either to explain or they are using this as ammunition to say he’s a bad person or a good person,” Downs said. “Democrats didn’t like Pence to begin with. They didn’t like him before RFRA. They didn’t like him after. They don’t like him now because of this decision. Republicans, some of them liked him before, some of them didn’t like him after the RFRA decision. But, this is basically a Republican position on the issue.”

Much like RFRA, the ban on Syrian refugees is being perceived by many people as discrimination.

“Whether or not it actually sends that message or not, it can be used that way. That’s the important thing here. The perception often is the reality in politics, and the perception here can be painted that Indiana is closing its doors,” Downs said. “It can be used that way to say that we’re not open and inviting, that we’re not exhibiting that Hoosier hospitality that we’re supposed to be exhibiting. At the same time, though, there are people who will say wait a minute, this is actually about protecting the people who are here, no matter where they’re from and making sure those who are coming here are coming here lawfully, so it’s easy to put a different spin on it.”

However, state politicians like Jim Banks don’t think it’s hurting the state’s image and support Governor Pence’s decision.

“If anything, it reinforces his leadership ability, and it reinforces that in Indiana, we are serious about keeping the residents of our state safe,” Banks said.

State Senator Liz Brown agrees.

“I think Governor Pence recognizes his first priority should be to ensure the safety of Hoosiers and that’s what he’s doing, and he’s just asking President Obama and his administration to assure us that no terrorists will be let into the country,” Brown said.

John Gregg is the Democrat running against Pence for Governor. He released the following statement on Pence’s decision:

“I was outraged by the horrific events in Paris last weekend and feel strongly that every Hoosier should feel safe in their homes, at work and at school.  I trust that Governor Pence made this decision based on credible information he’s received from both state and federal intelligence sources and didn’t do this as a knee-jerk reaction motivated by politics or fear. However, we need more information to make that determination. I look forward to learning more about his decision making process in the coming days.”

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