Speaker of the House G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) is a funny guy. The Legislature’s 2017 Interim Study Survey included a comment section where Speaker Mickelson submitted this important guidance for his colleagues’ consideration:
The non-meandered waters issue will take some serious thinking… or maybe just a new survey and a big round of eminent domain (because ultimately, that’s what the fishing advocates are after, the state finishing the taking that the rain gods started). But workforce housing? Come on, G. Mark—that’s just another issue where Republicans and business owners are going to ignore the obvious solution: raise wages, and workers can afford to fix up or buy houses. (There, done, saved you three meetings.)
76 of our 105 legislators* responded to the interim study survey by April 12. Summing their rankings produces this list of preferred topics:
Legislators came nowhere near taking my dare to put refugees on the interim agenda: the three refugee-related topics finished 14th, 19th, and dead-last 22nd. Adding those three topics’ rank points still wouldn’t have beat non-meandered waters or workforce housing (or #3, issues facing the new Government Accountability Task Force). The least popular of those three refugee study proposals, Study “K”, came from Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba, whose District 15 includes a lot of refugees have settled in Sioux Falls. His proposal was phrased favorably toward refugees, immigrants, and religious minorities, seeking study of these questions:
How do we ameliorate differences and better facilitate cross-cultural understanding to more quickly and effectively integrate new South Dakotans into our workplaces?
What is already working at firms with diverse workforces?
What obstacles exist to further integration? How do we overcome these?
What? Senator Nesiba wanted to get rid of obstacles to making new people part of South Dakota? No wonder it came in last: the only other legislator to express interest in Senator Nesiba’s positive refugee proposal was fellow freshman Rep. Bob Glanzer, Republican from Huron, where a number of Karen refugees have settled to work at the turkey plant.
*p.s.:Legislators not responding by April 12 and not listed on survey tally:
Reps. Anderson, Bartling, Bordeaux, Brunner, Conzet, DiSanto (no guns on topic list, so boring!), Frye-Mueller, Goodwin, Hunhoff, Johns, Kaiser, Latterell, Marty, McCleery, McPherson, Kent Peterson (hey! Mr. Assistant Majority Leader! How about leading?), Qualm (hey! Mr. Majority Leader! Ditto!), Ring, Rozum, Smith, Wiese, and York;
Several proposed studies would focus on refugees. One would study the financial impact of resettlement on the South Dakota economy. A different one would look at the challenges and issues confronting refugees, examine why they have come to South Dakota and look at the impact of government policies on refugees. A Democratic lawmaker also proposed studying how to improve cross-cultural understanding to more effectively integrate immigrants, refugees and religious minorities into the state’s workforce [James Nord, “Refugees, Water Among Topics SD Lawmakers Could Study,” AP via Sioux City Journal].
I say do it. Do ’em all. Write down everything legislators say they want to know about refugees, and then let’s spend the summer gathering that data. Count up the folks who’ve fled persecution and war to find safe and stable homes here in South Dakota. Count up the jobs they do, the money they make, and the impact they have on the state and local economies. And go ahead: count up the crimes committed by people who’ve moved here from lands in political and economic turmoil, and then compare those crime rates with the trouble caused by newcomers in general and the local folks, White and Indian.
And while you’re at it, be sure to count up every South Dakota town where refugees have established Sharia law and no-go zones.
Get that data. Gather, publish, and discuss that data at public meetings throughout the state. And then demand that every bill in the 2018 Legislature daring to address refugees is based on that real, solid, vetted data, not baloney peddled by Neal Tapio, Clare Lopez, and other fabricating fearmongers.
On another front, Governing data maven Mike Maciag deems the link between immigrants and high crime rates “mythical“:
To shed light on this contention, Governing conducted an original analysis using recently released metro area population estimates from the Pew Research Center for “unauthorized immigrants” — people who crossed the border illegally or overstayed visas. The analysis not only found no link with violent crime, but indicated concentrations of unauthorized immigrants were associated with marginally lower violent crime rates. A statistically significant negative correlation was also shown for property crimes. For every 1 percentage-point increase in the unauthorized immigrant share of a metro area’s population, average property crime rates dropped by 94 incidents per 100,000 residents.
…Our analysis of the Pew data, while limited to a narrow time period, mirrors findings of broader academic research dismissing a relationship between foreign-born residents, regardless of legal status, and higher crime rates.
“The literature is pretty clear,” says Robert Adelman, an associate professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. “Results are strong and stable across time and place” [Mike Maciag, “The Mythical Link Between Immigrants and High Crime Rates,” Governing, 2017.03.02].
Maciag notes that misperceptions persist be
“There’s a long history in our country of immigrants being scapegoated for all sorts of things,” says Monica Varsanyi, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice associate professor. “They are easy targets” [Maciag, 2017.03.02].
SCR 15 is not on today’s Senate calendar, but Senator Tapio will shortly get his chance to work up his tears and false fears and bracket our Islamic neighbors with “radical” and “terrorism” on behalf of his patron the President. (According to FEC filings, on September 21, 2016, the Donald Trump campaign paid Neal Tapio $5,537.84 for “field consulting.”)
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.”
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.
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 showed a little good sense yesterday, transforming Senator Brock Greenfield’s ugly anti-refugee power grab. In Senate Bill 124, Senator Greenfield and a flock of fellow cranky Trumpy fearmongers originally sought to empower the Legislature to ban refugees from South Dakota. That plan wasn’t going to fly, So Senator Greenfield offered an amendment:
SB 124 still repeals the Department of Social Services’ authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to resettle refugees, but as Greenfield noted, South Dakota is a “Wilson/Fish” state, meaning we have non-profit, non-governmental groups handle refugee resettlement. DSS’s authority is thus practically moot; SB 124’s repeal of that authority doesn’t keep refugees out.
Instead of requiring Legislative approval for all refugee resettlement agreements, the amended SB 124 now requires private agencies working with direct arrival refugees to submit annual reports on the services they provide to refugees, which towns receive refugees, how many refugees come, the demographics (age, country of origin, sex) or refugees arriving, and any proposed changes to numbers of refugees expected. These annual reports are only required through 2020.
That amendment brought some refugee lawyers and advocates around to testify in favor of the amended SB 124. They also explained the rigorous vetting process to which refugees must submit. Attorney Anna Kerner Anderson said that a refugee who acknowledges giving a cup of water to an ISIS fighter occupying her village may be denied admission as a supporter of terrorism. Immigration attorney Taneeza Islam noted that South Dakota is a top-five resettlement state because we need refugees to fill workforce needs. Islam said refugees and immigrants in general make up 3% of our workforce and contribute one billion dollars in purchasing power a year to South Dakota.
Misdod Mustapa said his family came to America from Somalia as political refugees. Mustapa’s family was self-sufficient, off all public assistance, within six months of arriving in Sioux Falls. He paid back his new country by serving four years in the Marines; both of his brothers went to college. “We come over here for the American Dream,” said Mustapa, “and once we do that, once we get the opportunity to do the American Dream, we only help build that to make it better.”
Sister Kathleen Bierne of the Presentation Sisters said she objected to the “tenor” and “restrictive tone” of the original bill. She said the general idea of keeping people out conflicts with the Presentation Sisters’ mission to be more welcoming. She found the amendment sufficient to alleviate her concerns.
In trivia from yesterday’s Aberdeen crackerbarrel…
Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) compared his anti-refugee bill to his mom’s anti-nuclear waste bill, saying both are simply measures to expand the Legislature’s oversight. It’s funny that Republicans are working hard to expand government power. It’s not funny that Senator Greenfield views refugees the same way he views nuclear waste.
Best friends against the Muslim ban in West Palm Beach.
Senator Greenfield boasted that legislators don’t attack each other, then noted wryly that a couple of his Republican colleagues may try to prove him wrong. Brock didn’t say names, but we know who he meant, don’t we, Stace and Lance?
Addressing a questioner’s concern with transparency, accountability, and Joop Bollen’s big smile, rookie Representative Drew Dennert (R-3/Aberdeen) said the root of the corruption problem with EB-5 and GEAR UP was federal money. Hmmm… that’s like saying the root of South Dakota’s meth problem is acetone manufacturers.
Since Republicans struggle with simile and subtlety, let’s just say it: No, Drew, the root of EB-5 and GEAR UP corruption was corrupt friends of friends who thought they could take money from the till because nobody in Pierre was watching.
And in participation awards:
Representative Burt Tulson drove 120 miles to get 85 characters, including spaces.
Hmmm… 75 characters, 10 empty spaces… that’s darn near a description of the Republican caucus in Pierre.
On the bright side, losing the Senate race means I have time to teach and judge debate. For Scott Parsley, losing his Senate race means having more time to visit Congresswoman Kristi Noem… and give her hell for Trumpism:
Dozens of people gathered together outside Rep. Kristi Noem’s office to share their opinion regarding her support of President Trump’s refugee ban.
“We just felt like it was important for us to come out and say we disagree with that,” said former State Senator Scott Parsley.
“This [protest] is very normal, it’s expected. If you do something that is not with human morals and character and values, people need to stand up and say, no, this is not what mankind is looking for….
“It just makes people more scared of Muslims, more scared of Islam, which is absolutely wrong. You are giving the wrong message, in the wrong time and the wrong place and the wrong way. We have to change that,” stated Elgouhari [Gonzalez, 2017.01.31].
“The way in which this particular executive order was rolled out has unfortunately created unnecessary confusion. Americans deserve more clarity on this issue from the administration,” Thune said in an email to [that Sioux Falls paper].
…The South Dakota senator said he strongly opposes any religious test for refugees and immigrants but supports “a security test.”
“It’s clear we need to vet individuals coming to this country from areas where terrorists are operating,” Thune said. “President Trump inherited a humanitarian crisis made worse by President Obama’s inaction. This very brief pause gives us a chance to fully assess the threats we are facing and to strengthen our vetting process” [Dana Ferguson, “Thune Opposes Religious Test for Refugees,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.01.30].
“My first priority is the safety and security of the American people,” Noem said in a statement. “I share the President’s concerns about our ability to screen refugees – especially those from terrorist hotbed areas. I support putting a temporary pause on accepting refugees from terrorist-held areas – at least until the administration can certify that asylum seekers do not present a safety threat to the U.S.” [Dana Ferguson, “Rep. Noem Supports Suspending U.S. Refugee Program,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.01.29]
Kristi, see the link above about how the U.S. vets refugees.
“The United States has a long tradition of welcoming refugees into our country,” said Rounds. “I strongly believe we can remain true to that tradition while keeping South Dakotans and all Americans safe here at home. Terrorists have shown they are willing to infiltrate countries posing as refugees. We must make certain our top U.S. intelligence officials are satisfied that we have all the information needed to properly vet certain refugees to make sure they don’t have ties to terrorism. We must also assure that the Visa Waiver Program is working as the 2015 changes intended” [“South Dakota’s Congressional Delegation Responds to President Trump’s Travel Ban,” KELO-TV, 2017.01.30].
Mike, see the link above about where terrorists come from and the number of attacks perpetrated in the U.S.
South Dakota’s Congressional delegates thus appear to share among themselves half a vertebra and only a political fraction of a brain.
Update 18:17 CST: The redoubtable and mostly undoubtable John Tsitrian reports that he, he smart daughter Emily, the Cato Institute, and the Koch Brothers all agree that Trump’s immigration ban hurts America’s reputation and security.
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].
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.
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.