I don’t spend much time seating Legislative resolutions. They enact no policy; they mostly just scratch itches in our legislators’ dark and damp places.
But some resolutions expose the most vile impulses of some of our Republican legislators. In Senate Concurrent Resolution 15, Trumpist Senator Neal Tapio (R-5/Watertown) lures 20 co-sponsoring Republicans (including my entire District 3 delegation) into insulting refugees and Lutheran Social Services.
SCR 15 would issue “a vote of no confidence in the refugee resettlement program, and the administration thereof.” Tapio lacks the courage and honor to name Lutheran Social Services; the key Whereas clause only tags “the United Nations, the United States Department of State, and an unelected nonprofit organization” as “solely responsible for implementing the refugee resettlement program.”
But let’s be clear, Neal, Al, Blake, and other sponsors. By voting for SCR 15, you will be saying that you have no confidence in a charitable, non-profit South Dakota organization that, in addition to helping refugees become Americans, provides a whole host of other social services valued at $22.6 million in fiscal year 2016.
Neal, Al, Blake, do you really want to go on the record saying you have no confidence in an organization whose chief of fundraising is also the husband Bill Peterson is an alumnus of your august body and is the husband of your current Republican colleague Representative Sue Peterson?
Besides maligning good neighbors doing good work, Tapio fills SCR 15 with offensive rhetorical flailings.
The resolution opens with puffy phrases about our “open and pluralist society” and the “hope and freedom” we offer to “those living in fear and tyranny,” then proceeds to peddle Trumpist fear and signal that South Dakota doesn’t want refugees.
Tapio squeezes in his theocratic urges, claiming “America… constitutionally protects each person’s God-given freedom to think, believe, speak, and act….” Um, Neal? “America” as an open and pluralist society makes no official claim that freedoms are given by any one religion’s deity. The Legislature cannot do so without running afoul of one of those Constitutional protections, the Establishment Clause.
Tapio also sneaks in some bang-bangery, including as a Whereas, “these freedoms are so important, the United States Constitution provides the right to bear arms in order to protect those freedoms.” At best, that’s rambling, ungermane to the subject of LSS’s refugee resettlement efforts. At worst, it’s a veiled threat: You refugees get out of line, and we’ll shoot you!
SCR 15 asserts that “the State of South Dakota has ceded the state’s authority and has no direct influence on the implementation or administration of the refugee resettlement program.” What, did Tapio himself vote for Senate Bill 124, the formal ceding of that authority, just to give himself another Whereas? And does Tapio really believe states have any authority to cede in the properly federal issue of immigration?
SCR 15 puts on the record this wild generalization about every country from which refugees come:
…the societal impact of accepting refugees from countries where ninety-eight percent of females undergo forced female genital mutilation, where practices of honor killings and dancing chai boys exist, and where other cultural practices antithetical to freedom and liberty are exercised is unknown… [2017 SCR 15].
FGM is not concentrated in a majority of the countries from which our refugees came in 2016. And perhaps the proper policy response to this horrid practice is not to blacklist all people from those countries but make clear we offer women safe haven from this abuse.
As for “dancing chai boys” (the proper term appears to be bachabaze, an exploitative practice, banned by the Taliban but resurging since their fall) in which usually wealthy men force boys into sexual servitude), one would think refugees are more likely to be the disempowered victims of such abuse, not the powerful status-seekers who perpetuate it. And if Tapio wants to Legislatively pronounce an entire country suspect because of the pedophiliac practices of an elite few, then I look forward to his follow-up resolution warning the world about American visitors due to pedophile Catholic priests.
Similarly, SCR 15 bemoans our acceptance of refugees “from countries that impose the death penalty for laws of apostasy and laws of blasphemy.” Again, if certain nations are subjecting people to oppression, isn’t that reason to open our doors to people fleeing such oppression? Translated into Cold War terms, SCR 15 says, “Those Cubans come from countries that practice Communism! Kick ’em out!”
And finally, Trumpist fear-mongering: SCR 15 claims, “refugees and their children have been involved in terrorist attacks domestically and have joined ISIS and other known terrorist organizations around the world.” Tapio and his fearful friends may as well pen a resolution voting no confidence in the National Weather Service because lightning killed 38 Americans in 2016. You face more danger of being hit by lightning twice than of being killed by a refugee committing a terrorist attack. Syrian refugees have killed nobody in America. There is no evidence that refugees or immigrants in general commit more crime than those of us who got here earlier.
If anyone deserves a vote of no confidence, it’s not Lutheran Social Services, which works every day to help new Americans. It’s Trumpists like Tapio, Curd, and Novstrup, who tarnish the Legislature and South Dakota with insulting, ignorant measures like Senate Concurrent Resolution 15.
Senate State Affairs has SCR 15 first on its agenda for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 1) at 10 a.m., followed appropriately by another exercise in baseless fear, HB 1156, which would allow concealed pistols in the Capitol.