Suspected hate crimes targeting Muslims carried out as anti-Islam rhetoric swells in the US following Paris attacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a lawsuit against Indiana Governor Mike Pence for trying to block the resettlement of refugees in the US state.
Ted Faulk, a legal director for ACLU’s Indiana chapter, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Pence’s decision to order local refugee programmes to not cooperate with the federal government was “unconstitutional”, because states do not have the authority to prevent the accommodation of refugees within their borders.
“The governor has no right to dictate what to do with funds allocated by the federal government for refugees,” he said.
“The state has already sent away a family of refugees to Connecticut,” Faulk added.
The ACLU said in a statement that it launched the suit on Monday against the governor and the Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
Pence’s spokeswoman Kara Brooks reacted on Tuesday with a statement which said the governor was confident he has the legal authority to suspend the state’s participation in the refugee programme.
“The governor believes that caution and compassion are not mutually exclusive. We can take measures to ensure the security of our nation even while we continue to extend support and refuge to people around the world fleeing from the ravages of hardship and war,” Brooks said.
Thirty-one state governors, nearly all of which are from the right-wing Republican party, have announced that they would reject refugees. New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan is the lone Democrat to have joined the group.
The number of states opposing refugees have grown gradually after a series of assaults claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group killed 130 people in Paris on November 13.
Several governors cited allegations that a Syrian passport found at the site of an attack in the French capital had belonged to one of the suspected assailants as a cause of their concerns in allowing refugees into their states.
Campaign to promote acceptance
In an effort to change their stance on refugees, the Syrian American Council (SAC), a Washington-based rights group, told Al Jazeera that it has launched a nationwide campaign, including in Indiana, to encourage the governors to engage in direct meetings with refugees.
Omar Hossino, a SAC spokesperson, said: “We are confident that once they meet refugees and hear their stories, they will realise that the Syrian people share the same fears of violence as them.”
“We understand where they are coming from, but we are confident they will reconsider their decision,” he said. “We also hope the broader public will become more welcoming [of refugees]”.
Hossino also said the SAC initiative has been gaining support from various rights and religious organisations, including ACLU, as well as a number of Jewish and Christian groups.