Apparently failing to recognize they have the White House on their side, Senator Al Novstrup and other Trumpist legislators have filed Senate Bill 124, an effort to ban refugees from South Dakota.
SDCL 28-1-47 designated the Department of Social Services as the state agency that handles South Dakota’s participation in the federal Refugee Act of 1980. SB 124 strikes that statute and replaces it with this declaration:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no new refugee resettlement agreements may be entered into or renewed with agencies of the federal government without prior approval by the Legislature [2017 SB 124, introduced 2017.01.26].
As was the case in 2015 when Syrian refugees became the convenient scapegoat for Republicans who lack faith in America, legislatures can’t ban individuals authorized to enter the United States from entering their states.
But wait: On Friday, Trump announced that he is blocking anyone from coming to America from Syria and six other Muslim countries that he considers hotbeds of “radical Islamic” extremism (“radical” meaning “not doing business with Trump Incorporated“). Trump is barring all refugees for four months and Syrian refugees indefinitely. When he cracks the door for refugees again, Trump is promising a Christians-first admissions policy.
Christian leaders across the country are criticizing Trump’s policy, but as Al and his legislative pals make the church rounds this morning, shouldn’t they be celebrating total victory on immigration? Doesn’t Trump’s order render their SB 124 not only unnecessary, but counterproductive? Suppose they pass SB 124 and it can withstand judicial review. At the end of May, when Trump reopens the borders to preferred Christian refugees, the South Dakota Legislature will be two months past adjournment. Unless they call a special session, the Legislature won’t be able to authorize the admission of any of those preferred Christian refugees to South Dakota.
When Senate State Affairs takes up SB 124 (no date set yet), let’s hope that Al and his pals can recognize that, in Trump’s America, we don’t need state laws to peddle paranoia, ignorance, and bigotry. The White House has that covered.
- Al Novstrup signed onto two attempted refugee bans in the 2016 Legislature, 2016 HB 1158 and 2016 SB 119. Rep. Scott Craig had the Christian decency to withdraw the former before hearing. The latter died the next day in committee, but with Al’s son David voting to defend his dad’s fear and trembling.
- Jesuit priest and America editor James Martin cites Pope Francis, St. John Paul II, Exodus, and Jesus to point out the inconsistency or the Trump immigration order and Christian ethics. In October 2016, Pope Francis offered this guidance for Trump and Novstrup:
Answering questions from young people in the group this morning, the pope said, “the sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy,” which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ.
“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.” This is a reference to Christ’s injunction to help the needy by such works of mercy as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.
“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite” [“Pope Francis: You Can’t Defend Christianity by Being ‘Against Refugees and Other Religions’,” Catholic Herald UK, 2016.10.13].