New Zealand conspiracy hack Trevor Loudon’s speeches in South Dakota this make clear that anti-refugee agitation is really a Republican Red-Scare-style attack on Democrats. The Minnehaha County GOP sponsored Loudon’s appearance in Sioux Falls Monday, during which Loudon said Communists and Muslims are conspiring to give undocumented immigrants amnesty to boost Democratic voter registration. He also went McCarthy on famous South Dakota Democrats, calling Tom Daschle a Communist and Jim Abourezk a Marxist.
Loudon repeated his partisan McCarthyite ravings on behalf of the Republican Party in Aberdeen:
“Why is the left going absolutely crazy against Donald Trump right now?” he asked. “Because they were on the verge of a one-party state. Almost had it in the bag.”
Loudon said refugee resettlement is a way Democrats are trying to garner more voters.
The speaker, a New Zealand writer and filmmaker named Trevor Loudon, said South Dakota should pass laws labeling Muslim advocacy and student organizations as hate groups and create restrictions on refugees and immigrants.
“It would be great to see South Dakota, which is a small state and a relatively conservative state actually take some stands on these issues,” Loudon said. “The people of South Dakota have a right to determine who lives in their own state” [Dana Ferguson, “Speaker at Minnehaha GOP Event Says Congress Infiltrated by Traitors,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.09.19].
No, we don’t, Trevor. I might really want to keep a foreign infiltrator like you out of my state, but if the federal government grants you a tourist visa or a work visa or whatever surely proper immigration documentation you have received to come peddle your lies, no local law or state ordinance may restrict you from entering South Dakota and spending your time here in whatever legal way you please. South Dakota cannot tell any law-abiding person or any class of people that they cannot enter or remain in South Dakota due to their religious or political beliefs (or, in this case, to the warped versions of beliefs that you ascribe to the people you demonize).
Ferguson reports that Republican Senator Neal Tapio, who mimics Loudon’s shouting of baseless accusations against patriotic South Dakotans, drove down from Watertown to cheer Loudon’s call for illegal restrictions on freedom of movement and equal protection under the United States Constitution. So did his Republican colleagues Senators Jim Stalzer and Jack Kolbeck of Sioux Falls and Reps. Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls and Michael Clark of Hartford. Any legislator the violation of such a fundamental Constitutional right as freedom of interstate travel should be considered in violation of his oath of office. We can’t remove such ignorant or dangerous legislators from South Dakota, but we can certainly remove them from office at the nearest legal opportunity.
“Once our border is secure, we can better identify the needs of our immigration system, ensuring safety, income and opportunity for Americans remains the first priority,” Noem said in a statement [Dana Ferguson, “South Dakota Officials Won’t Commit to Replacing DACA,” USA Today, 2017.09.05].
Like Rep. Noem, Senator M. Michael Rounds has avoided the merits of protecting young immigrants who were brought to America by their parents without proper documentation by unnecessarily tying their fate with stricter border control:
“I think there is some common ground that we all want to work toward and at the same time have compassion for these younger people who in many cases never knew another country,” Rounds said. “But we can’t do that without getting something done on border security” [“Sen. Rounds Won’t Commit to Supporting DACA Replacement,” AP via U.S. News and World Report, 2017.09.08].
Yes, we can, Mike. Securing the border is a completely separate issue. As implemented by President Obama in 2012, DACA extends no protection to anyone who is crossing the border now. Current border security measures have nothing to do with the 800,0o0 DACA recipients already studying or working or both here in America. You and Kristi need to quit forging false complications and just solve the problem: tell these young Americans they can stay, then go back to pretending you’re going to shake down Mexico to build a bigger ineffectual wall.
Tsitrian says his immigrant family benefited from learning English quickly through immersion 70 years ago, but that ideal (and I agree that swiftly adopting the native language of one’s new country is an ideal) isn’t practical today:
…we have to grapple with the fact that English immersion for immigrants will probably never be a fact of our state’s economic and cultural life again.Nostalgia for our historic character as a “melting pot” doesn’t get the job of building our economy done, as a lot of South Dakota enterprises are finding out. In Sioux Falls, the head of the local chapter of the Associated General Contractors tells the Argus Leader that immigrant labor is “hugely important” to the construction trade, a fact that anybody in the Black Hills who’s had a roof installed in recent years knows first hand. I’ve put up three roofs, two commercial and one residential, in the past four years and I’m pretty sure that each crew was close to 100% Spanish-speaking, with only the lead installer capable of communicating in a halting version of English on each job [John Tsitrian, “We Need a Multi-Lingual Workforce in South Dakota,” The Constant Commoner, 2017.09.05].
Ideally, every immigrant family would immerse itself in learning the language of its new homeland. Learning to speak English in America provides immigrants with more opportunity to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of the community. But practically, even if many immigrants aren’t hitting the books and the language tapes, we still need them to lay our shingles, milk our cows, and drive our trucks.
The situation is akin to what public education faces. Ideally, parents would take care of breakfast. But practically, not all parents do. When kids show up at school hungry in the morning, we can gripe about how parents ought to do their job, and we may complain that school breakfast programs may accommodate further lazy parenting, but practically, we need to feed those kids so they can learn.
In a small way, providing driving exams in Spanish or other foreign languages takes the pressure off immigrants to study English. But as Tsitrian says, our immediate economic needs outweigh that concern.
Following up on his successful ploy to own the long-weekend news cycle with his usual tactic of teasing an announcement to get everyone talking about it before it happens, Donald Trump announced today that he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5, 2018. DACA has allowed around 800,000 people brought to America as children without proper documentation to remain in the United States and obtain work permits under these conditions:
DACA allowed individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children or teens before mid-2007 to apply for protection from deportation and work permits if they met certain requirements. Beneficiaries had to be under the age of 16 upon entering the country; no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012; lived continuously in the U.S. since mid-2007; be enrolled in high school or college, already have a diploma or degree, have a GED certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. military; and have no felony criminal convictions, significant misdemeanor convictions, no more than three other misdemeanor convictions or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety [Vanessa Romo et al., “Trump Ends DACA, Calls on Congress to Act,” NPR, 2017.09.05].
It’s not amnesty when young immigrants have to reapply every two years for a mere work permit and still can’t get legal immigration status or citizenship in the country in which they grew up.
DACA isn’t admitting any new immigrants; it only applies to those who came here as kids before mid-2007 and have been here since, getting an education and quite possibly working and contributing to our society.
And if Jeff Sessions thinks America needs to deport 800,000 young de facto Americans, Jeff Sessions hasn’t studied the workforce shortage that’s plaguing South Dakota and every other aging community in America.
Today, the Trump administration turned its back on hard-working immigrant families and students. Rescinding DACA will force thousands of immigrants back into the shadows, tear families and communities apart, and be a devastating blow to the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who only know this country as their home. As a result of this cruel and short-sighted action, Trump and Republicans are choosing to further divide our country, create fear in our communities, and even hurt our economy.
Donald Trump’s actions today are cruel and bend to the wishes of extremist Republicans in his own party. Democrats proudly stand by the 252 DACA beneficiaries in South Dakota and believe that America’s biggest strength is our diversity. We will continue to work to fix our broken immigration system, and the most important step in doing that is supporting the DREAMers who are contributing to our nation’s economy – including over $12 million in South Dakota alone – and were brought to this country by no fault of their own. We urge Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem to act and support legislation in Congress to protect our DREAMers and keep our communities safe [Sam Parkinson, South Dakota Democratic Party executive director, press release, 2017.09.05].
Five years ago, the federal government made a deal with immigrant youth: As long as you pass a criminal background check you can live, study, and work here. Hundreds of thousands of young people came out of the shadows and accepted the government’s offer in good faith and worked hard to build their lives here.
Today, the government and President Trump went back on their word, threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families into disarray, and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America.
In South Dakota, over 250 of our neighbors used their DACA status to give back to our country in innumerable ways: they are our doctors, soldiers, and students. Our neighbors, family, and friends.
Now, the fate of 800,000 young adults, who call this country their home, lies in the hands of Congress. Lawmakers such as Representative Noem, Senator Thune, and Senator Rounds must decide if they are on the side of Dreamers and our country’s foundation, or on the side of the ugly forces that helped to end DACA.
While this is a hard day for the immigrant community and America as a whole, we will continue to fight. Years of courage, sacrifices, and organizing won the DACA program in 2012. Nothing will deter these Americans and our allies in South Dakota and across the country from continuing to fight on behalf of their futures and holding those responsible accountable [Heather Smith, ACLU of South Dakota executive director, press release, 2017.09.05].
I haven’t heard where our members of Congress stand yet, but yesterday, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said the United States “does not hold children accountable for the actions of their parents.” With Trump taking another whack at the Obama tree today, Senator Lankford needs to talk to Senators Thune, Rounds, and their colleagues to prevent such unjust punishment of children for parents’ crimes.
South Dakota Voices for Peace says Trump’s DACA announcement ruins the first day of school for many young immigrants in Sioux Falls. Voices for Peace will hold a Vigil for Solidarity for the young almost-Americans affected by this purely political decision this evening from 7:30 to 8:30 Central in Meldrum Park (1708 East 6th Street) in Sioux Falls.
Indivisible Rapid City is hosting a demonstration calling on Congress to save DACA this afternoon from 4:00 to 5:00 Mountain near the USCIS office at 2255 Haines Avenue in Rapid City.
Construction industry leaders in the Sioux Falls area want to change the state’s driving laws to make it easier for Spanish speakers to get behind the wheel. Language restrictions have created a drag on the workforce in a fast-growing industry that also drives the growth of the state’s largest city.
Most states offer driving tests in different languages. South Dakota does not.
The Legislature passed and Governor Bill Janklow signed a law (SDCL 1-27-20) in 1995 declaring English the “common” state language and designating that common language as “the language of any official public document or record and any official public meeting.” The “the” in that clause means that when aspiring drivers sit for the test to get their license, the official test that the state plunks in front of them must be written only in English.
Roadbuilder BX Civil and Construction of Dell Rapids tells Anderson that about 60 of its 100 workers are Hispanic. The construction execs talking about easing the language restrictions on driver’s license tests seem to be focusing on allowing Spanish versions of those tests. But if there is a civil rights issue with offering our driving tests in only one language, there’s a civil rights issue with offering those tests in only two languages. Employers can’t up and say they only want more Hispanic workers; whatever legal changes they propose need to offer equal opportunity to all workers, regardless of national origin or native tongue.
“Just going to math, if a big source of economic growth is population growth, and your population growth slows, either because you restrict immigration or because you have fewer babies, your economic growth is going to slow,” Kashkari said at the Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls, responding to a question about a Trump-backed bill to cut legal immigration by 50 percent over the next 10 years. “Do we want economic growth, or not? That’s what it comes down to” [Ann Saphir, “Check Your Math, Central Banker Says: Less Immigration Equals Less Growth,” Reuters, 2017.08.07].
Kashkari statement above followed up on a response to a question about how to stop rural communities from dying. Just as I told Aberdeen’s mini-Klan a year ago, Kashkari told the Sioux Falls Rotarians that if we want jobs and growth, we either have to welcome immigrants or make a lot more babies:
“You can either accept slower growth; you can spend a lot of money to subsidize fertility – child care etc, very expensive – or you can embrace immigration. That’s math,” Kashkari told the audience in Sioux Falls, where the foreign-born population grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2014, figures from the U.S. census show.
“You guys have done a pretty good job of embracing immigration and that is a source of economic growth vibrancy” [Saphir, 2017.08.07].
Most of the Aberdeen folks attending our sad Aberdeen anti-immigrant hate fests have aged out of the workforce, so they should sit down, get real, and listen to real experts like Neel Kashkari: welcome the immigrants we need to keep our economy humming.
No South Dakota official has been held accountable in a court of law for the monkeyshines in our state’s exploitation of the EB-5 visa investment program, which allows wealthy foreigners to effectively buy green cards by investing $500,000 in American business ventures. But the feds may be working on nicking the Trump Mafia for abusing EB-5:
New York federal prosecutors subpoenaed Kushner Companies, the real estate development company owned by the family of President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, over its use of a visa program that offers green cards to wealthy foreign investors.
The subpoena was received by Kushner Companies in May, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, and regards the company’s use of the EB-5 visa program to finance a development in Jersey City, N.J. called One Journal Square.
(1) IN GENERAL.—An applicant may accrue, for foreign investment under this subsection— (A) 6 points if the applicant agrees to invest the equivalent of $1,350,000 in foreign currency in a new commercial enterprise in the United States, maintain such investment for at least 3 years, and play an active role in the management of such commercial enterprise as the applicant’s primary occupation; and (B) 12 points if the applicant agrees to invest the equivalent of $1,800,000 in foreign currency in a new commercial enterprise in the United States, maintain such investment for at least 3 years, and play an active role in the management of such commercial enterprise as the applicant’s primary occupation [RAISE Act, as introduced to U.S. Senate, 2017.02.13].
Under the RAISE Act, a foreigner needs at least 30 points to apply for a visa. Among other criteria, one gets 10 points for being 26 to 30 years old (apparently the optimum age for immigrants—folks over 50 get zero points for age). One gets 13 points for having a doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or math, 12 points for scoring the top decile of an English language proficiency test, 15 points for winning an Olympic medal, and 25 points for winning a Nobel prize.
Related Reading: Trump’s perhaps unwitting announcement that he would cancel EB-5 came the same day as private EB-5 recruiter U.S. Immigration Fund announced its expansion to India in a bid to expand India’s investors from a few dozen to “thousands in the next couple of years.”
Alas, like AF,TF, Aberdeen Together remains so far anonymous, with no indication on their Facebook page of who is running the show. Their About page offers only this brief, general niceness:
The face of Aberdeen is changing, and together, we can create a vibrant, uplifting community. Our children are already playing, growing and learning together. Isn’t it time we do the same? Visit aberdeentogether.org to learn more [Aberdeen Together, “About” Facebook page, retrieved 2017.07.25].
That recommended website right now remains in billboard stage—no links, no resources, not even contact info, just the same stock photo of innocent young diverse fútbolistas and a promise that a new site is coming soon.
But unlike Aberdeen’s pale imitation of the KKK, Aberdeen Together at least tells us where its money is coming from:
“Supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundation”—add an s, and you get the Open Society Foundations, the family of organizations that billionaire financier George Soros founded in 1979 to “build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.” Open society—in other words, a bold and healthy inclusiveness, the exact opposite of the Americans First, Task Force’s selfish, fearful exclusivity.
After his first big campaign speech, Democratic U.S. House candidate Tim Bjorkman huddled with reporters for thirteen minutes of Q&A. KELO TV used about 20 seconds for its personality/horserace question; KDLT used about 25 seconds of Bjorkman’s comments on his judicial experience and his view that we need a federal solution on health care to make up for South Dakota’s failure to expand Medicaid.
Bjorkman’s first response, on why he’s running for Congress, reveals a deeply humanitarian, service-oriented motivation. He served the public for years as a judge. The problems he saw from the bench—mental health, drug addiction, health care in general—affect not just the defendants who came before him but their families and especially their children. Bjorkman speaks of kids in “highly dysfunctional” homes living “lives of quiet desperation in the shadows of our culture.” Without hope and guidance, those kids “fall into the patterns of their parents and experience poor educational outcomes,” and “all too often they’ll fall into alcohol and marijuana use” before their teens. Those children and their parents “need a counselor more than they need a guard. They need treatment more than they need jail or prison.” Bjorkman says he can’t get those people the help they need from the bench; thus, he feels compelled to seek solutions as a Congressman.
At 3:13, Bjorkman says three magic words: “universal health care.”
There’s a solution to our problems. All the other countries that are developed have developed it. Heritage magazine did a study of the most economically free countries in the world… ten of the eleven more economically free countries than the United States all had universal health care. That’s Heritage Foundation. Forbes magazine addressed it [Tim Bjorkman, press conference, 2017.07.13, timestamp 2:50].
Bjorkman was referring to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, on which in 2017 the United States has slipped to #17, and this 2015 Forbes article, which said that, sure enough, ten of the eleven nations that beat us in 2015’s Heritage economic freedom rankings had universal coverage:
The two advanced economies with the most economically free health care systems—Switzerland and Singapore—have achieved universal health insurance while spending a fraction of what the U.S. spends. Switzerland’s public spending on health care is about half of America’s, and Singapore’s is about a fifth of ours. If we had either of those systems, we wouldn’t have a federal budget deficit [Avik Roy, “Conservative Think Tank: 10 Countries With Universal Health Care Have Freer Economies Than The U.S.,” Forbes, 2015.01.27].
At 3:50, Dana Ferguson asked if Bjorkman thinks 2018 will be a good year for Democrats in South Dakota. Bjorkman showed no interest in handicapping the partisan horserace. He similarly declined to wave the partisan flag in response to the next question, about how a Democrat can win in a red state, by saying that sure, party matters, but that he believes South Dakotans vote for the person.
At 5:50, Bjorkman reiterated the call he made in his speech to raise the federal minimum wage:
Yes… the federal government should increase the minimum wage. I just suggest $11 an hour. It would be $11.25 an hour today if we’d kept pace with 1968. I think we’re as great a nation today as we were in 1968 and that we should pay $11 or $11.25 an hour. If we did, that’s an anti-poverty… an anti-welfare or a welfare-cutting program, because it will remove people from the welfare rolls if they’re earning a fair wage, and we will not have to subsidize the people who are paying low wages [Bjorkman, timestamp 5:50].
At 7:50, Bjorkman avoided (ducked! dodged! dang it!) my question on his stance on immigration. Having just announced a “few minutes ago,” Bjorkman said he wants “to give thoughtful answers” and “not just give off-the-cuff responses” that “wouldn’t be worthy of the question you asked.” He did promise to address immigration and other issues in position papers and invited all of us reporters to come back and interview him in-depth on those positions as the seventeen months of the campaign progress.
Bjorkman also left me hanging at the end on my question about engaging young voters. He certainly believes young people should be interested and involved in this House contest, because the race is all about “preserving the American dream for their generation and their children.” Preserving the American dream ought to be enough to mobilize everyone to study the candidates and vote, but preserving the American dream is a banner any candidate can wave. Bjorkman the man of principle, policy, and problem-solving will want to sit down with his team of campaign strategists and marketers to figure out how to distinguish himself in the marketplace and uniquely appeal to the young voters who, if properly motivated, could tip the election in his favor. (Of course, Bjorkman may have already distinguished himself from all comers by saying “universal health care” and “increase the minimum wage.” Team Bjorkman: are you positioning Bjorkman as South Dakota’s Bernie Sanders?)
Around 8:45, Bjorkman spoke of the hard, lonely accountability of being a judge:
There’s nobody else to point a finger at or blame for any decision you make. You alone stand accountable for it. You alone are responsible for it, and it’s a very lonely job to sentence somebody for first-degree murder.
A trial judge makes thousands of decisions that impact people’s lives in important ways every year, and every time your duty is to do what’s right, what’s fair and just. So do I think that’s a good exercise for making decisions for the public on issues? Yes, I do, I think it’s good training for that [Bjorkman, timestamp 8:45].
Bjorkman should speak of that experience and responsibility every chance he gets. That judicial experience may even excuse, explain, and justify his not having a quick answer on immigration. As a judge, Bjorkman spent years making decisions with grave consequences. The liberty, health, safety, financial well-being, and the very lives of citizens, not to mention the proper application of law, hung on his thoughts and words. The details of his every decision were subject to review by higher courts. Bjorkman had to take his time to make sure he reviewed evidence from all sides and worked toward a just decision. The courtroom is no place for off-the-cuff statements. Neither is the campaign trail or Congress, not for Bjorkman, a thoughtful decision-maker who recognizes the impact of his words and policies. He won’t wing it; he’ll take his time and think it through. (Another note to Bjorkman’s campaign staff: on this key quality, thorough, thoughtful Bjorkman is the anti-Trump. Keep him off Twitter!)
The follow-up question about whether handing out all those sentences might produce a backlash at the polls from convicts and families didn’t faze Bjorkman. “Most people who go to prison, they’re struggling and they know it, and their families know it.” He said many people he sentenced told him, “I don’t want freedom; I want to be cured.” Bjorkman comes across not as a hard case who doesn’t care about the defendants who’ve come before him; quite the contrary, he sounds like a judge at peace with his conscience who has used the bench to help broken people.
Making none of the press coverage was Bjorkman’s suggestion to the press for a really useful news story:
You want to see what’s going on in our culture… sit in court for a day, or better yet, do a story where you’re following someone into the couet system and through the penal system, parole system afterward. You’d have a very powerful story. It might win you an award if you want to do that. It just takes some work and effort. I’ve recommended that to several reporters. Nobody’s taken me up on that. The parole board will welcome you on that end, too, to sit in on hearings, they’ve told me that [Bjorkman, timestamp 11:45].
On this suggestion and in his resistance to standard reporters’ horserace questions, Bjorkman signaled a practiced, professional, and gently sparring relationship with the press. “I’m not gonna do what you’d like me to there,” Bjorkman said to KELO’s question at 12:20 about why voters should choose him over his Republican opponents Dusty Johnson and Shantel Krebs. Bjorkman is not nihilist tyrant Donald Trump trying to delegitimize the national press that is exposing his sins. Nor is he a naïf frightened or bedazzled by the cameras and mics. Bjorkman is gently challenging the local press to focus on issues that matter and not falling into the quick-hit horserace comments that make it easier for reporters to meet the ten p.m. deadline.
I still want answers on immigration and engaging young voters in democracy (plus education, Native American relations, net neutrality, privacy…)… but as Bjorkman noted, I’m asking several months before anyone will really be paying attention. I have high expectations, and Bjorkman has time to meet them. In his first campaign press scrum yesterday, Bjorkman showed he may have the chops to do it.