Karen Refugees Vital to Turkey Plant, Huron Recovery

PBS provides a reminder for South Dakota’s anti-refugee legislators that Huron’s economic salvation has been refugees. Reporter Christopher Booker speaks with Dakota Provisions HR director Mark Heuston:

CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Between 2005 and 2014, a U.S. resettlement program admitted 73,000 refugees from Myanmar, long governed by a military dictatorship, until last year.

Heuston began recruiting the refugees in 2007, when during a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota, a magnet for refugees from Myanmar, he met a small group of Karen people willing to move to Huron.

Nine years later, through word of mouth and family ties, what started with 3, has expanded to more than 600 Karen workers.

MARK HEUSTON: Without the Karen people, we probably would not be able to run the turkey plant [Christopher Booker, “South Dakota Town Embraces New Immigrants Vital to Meat Industry,” PBS Newshour, 2016.07.02].

Huron’s population has bounced back 22% since its nadir in 2006. 46% of Huron’s K-12 students are now Asian or Latino. If the Trumpist attitudes against refugees exhibited by some South Dakota legislators prevail, Huron and other communities will lose access to the international workforce they need to survive.


7 Responses to Karen Refugees Vital to Turkey Plant, Huron Recovery

  1. mike from iowa

    Get thee to Huron and register these hard working immigrants as Democrats before wingnuts get them to vote against their best interests.

    Tell them they too can own turkeys and raise them for slaughter. Make businessmen and women out of them.

  2. Darn, don’t you hate it when your rigid, uncompromising philosophy gets in the way of reality?

  3. Loren, that’s why I’ve gotten less philosophical since my SDSU days studying under David Nelson, Kent Kedl, and Gordon Tolle. There’s a time for philosophizing, and there’s a time for getting stuff done.

    That said, one of the Republicans’ problems is that they don’t spend enough time thinking through their philosophy, or America’s philosophy. They say they support American values, but they demonize immigrants, who make up the backbone of our history and economy.

  4. Here, here, Cory! I’m a fifth generation “immigrant” on both my parents’ sides. It takes hard work for a whole family to change cultures, learn a new language, and make a living at the same time. I live in Huron, and I am grateful for the efforts of our Karen and Hispanic neighbors.

  5. Cory writes:

    Loren, that’s why I’ve gotten less philosophical since my SDSU days studying under David Nelson, Kent Kedl, and Gordon Tolle.

    Hey, I took several courses with David Nelson and Gordon Tolle during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 school years, including a philosophy honors course with Nelson in the fall of 1990. If you were in any of my classes, you apparently didn’t make much of an impression, but at least we finally know why we’re so much alike (ha ha).

    “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
    —Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40)

  6. Immigration makes America stronger.

  7. [Kurt, I didn’t have the pleasure of a David Nelson class until fall 1993. The woman I would marry nine years later was in that class, but I hardly noticed her then; I was too busy flirting with the two girls who sat next to me in the front row. Shows where my head was at SDSU. ;-) If I recall correctly, I did have Dr. Tolle for Political Philosophy in fall 1990, in which class I learned Hobbes’s formulation of life in the state of nature being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” and the advice offered by Dr. Tolle himself to spell Nietzsche’s name by writing N-I-E, inserting all the consonants one can think of, then adding -E.]