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SD Dairies Want Looser Immigration Rules to Maintain Exploitable Foreign Labor Pool

That Sioux Falls paper picks up a March 23 article from the Tri-State Neighbor that repeats a cry we’ve heard before from other CAFO dons: South Dakota’s big dairies want Uncle Sam to make it easier for them to access cheap immigrant labor.

Janelle Atyeo reports that Turner County Dairy operates with a half-Hispanic workforce, most earning $10 to $11 an hour. Dairy manager Steve Bossman says that even at those relatively low wages, he can rely on his Hispanic workers to find him extra bodies when he needs them:

They are all great workers, he said. And if he’s short on help, “I could ask that guy and he’d have three guys here tomorrow,” Bossman said, motioning toward a Hispanic man who was sweeping out a calf pen [Janelle Atyeo, “S.D. Dairy Operators Call for Immigration Reform,” Tri-State Neighbor, 2015.03.23].

…which comment I find fascinating alongside this estimate of how many agriculture workers are actually breaking the law:

By some estimates, anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent of agricultural workers are not authorized to work in the U.S. Getting access to a legal, stable workforce is a priority issue for the American Farm Bureau [Atyeo, 2015.03.23].

But Turner County Dairy makes sure it’s not facilitating illegal activity, right?

Like any employer, the Turner County Dairy collects three documents when a new employee is hired. The employee provides a driver’s license, a Social Security card and an I-9 tax form, which they sign to attest that they are working in the U.S. legally. [Dairy part-owner and former South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Walt] Bones said the employer must have these documents on file, but it’s not up to them to verify that their workers are telling the truth and working in America legally [Atyeo, 2015.03.23].

Bossman, Bones, and our entire Congressional delegation don’t say much to Atyeo about these illegal workers and the law-breaking employers who exploit them. They certainly don’t talk about ways to help these hard workers become permanent members of our workforce and our nation, because holy cow, if we let them stay permanently, eventually we might have to give them raises and let them vote, and oh my goodness, we can’t have more brown people voting!

No, no, no, the solution is to streamline the guest-worker visa process and make it easier for Big Ag to access cheap foreign labor without risking letting those laborers become citizens with rights…

…which all seems odd to me when I think of how Rep. Kristi Noem defends her self-serving positions on agriculture. Rep. Noem, whose brothers, as Mr. Kurtz puts it, sustain their farm profits by exploiting immigrant labor, has defended farm subsidies as an investment in national security. In advocating (weakly, fecklessly) for the long-delayed Farm Bill, Rep. Noem warned, “the moment we let another country feed us is the moment we let another country control us.”

In Rep. Noem’s word-world, agriculture is a vital national-security industry. But right now, quite possibly more than half of the workers in that industry are criminals from other countries. And even in her and her GOP and Big Ag pals’ proposals to decriminalize certain illegal immigration, she still supports a system in which we let workers from other countries feed us… which by Rep. Noem’s formulation means those other countries, to some extent, control us.

Subsidies, Farm Bill, immigration—Congresswoman Kristi Noem is not talking about principles of good government. Noem is back-rationalizing positions that financially benefit herself and her family.

If our leaders really meant the words they say, they would support smaller-scale, locally-oriented agriculture that would support more workers, better wages, and healthier eating. But just like offering immigrants an easier path to citizenship, expanding local agriculture and paying better wages would empower more workers and decentralize the control on which corporations base their profit projections. Instead, expect our leaders to continue their focus on protecting their Big Ag donors’ access to easily exploitable and disposable immigrant labor.


  1. Lynn 2015-04-13 14:35

    I have no animosity towards any of these immigrants that travel to work since they are simply seeking a better opportunity that did not exist where they came from. I would probably do the same if I were in their situation. My frustration is directed towards policy makers and employers of these immigrants and some of those are here illegally.

    How does this really benefit South Dakotans, that local job market other than those few that have a financial interest in these operations?

    Most of the money these immigrants earn will be sent home to their families in their home country right?

    Doesn’t it undermine market wages and give these employers an unfair advantage with cheaper labor?

    How many of these immigrants are truly exploited since they fear reporting various violations some of which could be safety related would result in termination and deportation?

  2. mike from iowa 2015-04-13 14:50

    Illegal immigrant females are subject to sexual assaults because they can’t complain w/o the risk of being deported. Nothing but business matters. With these kind of demeaning,lower pay jobs being a staple of state’s economy you will have to deal with more immigrants. Meanwhile your pols growl and pay lip service to the problems while giving businesses the wherewithal to hire these illegals.

  3. Jana 2015-04-13 14:50

    South Dakota’s two largest industries, Agriculture & Tourism are fueled by immigrants. Oh yeah, and apparently they also need kids to work for sub-minimum wage…cuz you know…opportunity!

    Move to South Dakota where labor is exploitable and disposable! (Kind of like the GOP legislature with their departures)

    I’m sure this makes the GOP proud and will be the new slogan when the Governor goes to the Mall of America to recruit our labor force!

  4. Lynn 2015-04-13 15:03

    MFI & Jana,

    Is this part of South Dakota’s War on Wages? Last year the mayor of Aberdeen was keen on the idea of bring more immigrants there to fill job openings.

    South Dakota……Plantation workers and that DEVO song Workin in a Coal Mine

  5. Bill Fleming 2015-04-13 15:08

    “But right now, quite possibly more than half of the workers in that industry are criminals from other countries.”

    What does that sentence mean, Cory?

  6. Richard Schriever 2015-04-13 15:09

    5 years ago, I was hired as an interpreter by the local census folks to go along to that dairy and assist in doing census interviews. The trailers the Hispanic employees lived in seemed to me to be pretty much like many of the homes of my Hispanic friends in Los Angeles. Every one of the employees was more than happy to cooperate with us as we asked questions. Not what you might expect would be typical of anyone illegally in the US. They all understood fully what a census was and that their participation was important. This is in contrast to when I worked with the census bureau in Los Angles in 1990, and the numerous legal US citizens were so resistant to being interviewed that in more cases than you would imagine law enforcement escorts were required. In addition, many of the illegal immigrants in LA were extremely reluctant to take part. Based on my direct experiences, in my estimation, the employees at the Turner county dairy most likely are legally in the US to work. On the other hand, I wonder why the journalist didn’t just ask the employees??? No hablamos de Espanol? Que?

  7. Troy 2015-04-13 16:19

    I’m so confused by this post Cory. Anyway, we have an illegal immigrant issue in this country. Some want everyone here working or non-working to be shipped back home. Some want them declared legal without regard to immigration standards and limits restricting people from coming here from countries not in North America. Whether consensus is ever reached one way or another in this regard, I don’t know but it doesn’t look like it will occur soon. So, do we do nothing in the meantime or do something. I advocate doing something because being illegal subjects a human of great risk of being abused. They can’t call the police lest they be deported so they take it.

    One of the easiest things to do is to allow more stream-lined legal immigration from Mexico. Just by its nature, we’ll have more immigrants willing to abide by our laws. Second, it will diminish the jobs available to illegals (disincentive to be here illegally). Third, it will increase the % of legals working at many of these businesses which will decrease the opportunity, incentive, and capacity for these employers to abuse people.

    We have preferred SBA lenders, preferred Section 8 subsidized developer/owner/operators, preferred businesses with regard to environmental compliance, a status earned by conforming to a higher standard of compliance of laws, regulation and performance standards. I wonder why we don’t have a more robust preferred program for employers of immigrants. Bush proposed it but did nothing to push it. Obama opposes it.

  8. mike from iowa 2015-04-13 17:14

    You won’t stop illegals by filling jobs. There will always be those that come to prey on their own kind. Drug dealing will always be in fashion until it is legalized. Those that have nothing and don’t want to work will attempt to take by force from those who do work.There will be as much or more human trafficking,prostitution and all the other evils. You’ll need more jails and prisons. More schools and beyyer housing,infrastructure. This country could be booming if some would stop saying no to everything and do their jobs.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-13 17:45

    When I was young I worked on a dairy milking three hundred cows twice a day by myself. The wages were twice what they were here in the midwest. Now Washington state where I milked has a minimum wage of fifteen dollars an hour. Well they were paying more than here all along. It has not killed their economy either.
    If South Dakota is so arrogant that they think they can pay super low wages forever, they will stay last in a lot of things. This super low wage situation has not attracted lots of workers and never will. The economy has not gotten better here than anywhere else no matter how ‘good’ of a business climate some think they have fooled themselves into believing in.
    If you keep looking the other way, Yes those minorities will outnumber us in less than twenty years. But do not worry, Obama has proven that those other colored people can run the country just fine. And they will go to school and learn to vote as well. Just get used to all the changes that are coming.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 17:52

    Bill, that sentence means exactly what it literally says, words that our Republican Congressional delegation should feel prefectly comfortable saying: 50% to 70% of the workers in agriculture are criminals (i.e., have committed a crime, violating U.S. immigration law) and come from other countries. Why don’t we hear Republicans calling for the immediate arrest of these criminals? Doesn’t their complete ignore-ance of this fact indicate that they are seeking amnesty of a sort for this captive workforce and the employers exploiting them?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 17:56

    Troy, what’s to be confused about? Republicans claim to be hawks on immigration, but they want to peel away the regulations to make it easier to keep their captive immigrant workforce. I’m not the one proferring confusion; the corporatist Republicans are.

    I don’t hear Noem, Thune, or Rounds talking about the danger of laborer exploitation and abuse that you recognize, Troy. Why aren’t they emphasizing that issue on immigration reform?

    Troy, under what principle should we grant any sort of preferred status to businesses that hire temporary visa-holding employees rather than American citizens? I don’t want to punish businesses that hire immigrants legally, and I don’t want to discourage immigration, but are preferences for hiring non-citizens appropriate?

  12. grudznick 2015-04-13 18:14

    I think we should ask Messrs. Rounds and Thune why they aren’t emphasizing things instead of asking Mr. Troy why Messrs. Rounds and Thune are up to things. I could be wrong but I bet Mr. Troy can’t really speak for them because I’m not sure he is their puppet master.

  13. grudgenutz 2015-04-13 18:31

    Take your Tourette’s pills, bro.

  14. Don Coyote 2015-04-13 19:50

    Unlawful presence in this country is not a crime per se. While it is a violation of federal immigration law to remain in the country without documentation ie overstaying a work, student or visitors visa, this violation is civil not criminal. Only illegal entry is criminal but only a misdemeanor.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 20:48

    Yes, Don, crank out the verbal gymnastics when your favored party is wallowing in unjustifiable contradiction.

    Straight talk: the U.S. has immigration laws. 50% to 70% of the ag workforce is here in violation of those laws. Violating laws is a crime. Why is that so hard to say?

  16. Sam@ 2015-04-13 21:06

    . It is interesting our top two industries want weaker immigration laws. I put out the welcome wagon for the Hispanics and other law abiding immigrants, however let’s make it simpler for them to get to America. What I disagree is the employers of these people taking advantage of these people knowing they are illegal.

    All our ancestors come to this country as immigrants at some point early in time, however they for the most part followed the proper protocol. I expect everyone to do the same.

  17. Bob Newland 2015-04-13 21:17

    Maybe, “I want my country back,” should become a mantra of the Lakota. At least then it might have an identifiable meaning.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 21:42

    Sam, did we even have a proper immigration protocol before the 1880s? (Answer: doesn’t look like it!

    I like immigration. I like letting people come join our country as full citizens. What gets me is the dairies and Republicans mentioned above aren’t talking about opening the door for more people to become Americans. They’re talking about loosening immigration law just enough to make it easier to obtain cheap foreign labor but not enough to make it easier for those foreign laborers to settle down, become full-fledged citizens, and enjoy the rights and status that would protect them more effectively from exploitative labor practices.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2015-04-13 21:45

    Cory has effectively laid out precisely why the republican party has resisted Immigration reform during President Obama’s administration.

    Republicans talk out of both sides of their mouths, they want one thing and say another. The demand law and order and strict deportation laws while at the same time their republican corporatist want to leave things as they are to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of immigrants, legal and illegal.
    Boehner and McConnell have both said that immigration reform is off the table, except when it serves their purposes with piecemeal legislation.

  20. Roger Cornelius 2015-04-13 21:51

    When we talk about that 50% to 70% of the agricultural workers that are criminals, shouldn’t we include the corporate owners that illegally hire illegal immigrants?

    Have any of these dairy owners ever been prosecuted for their illegal practices of employing illegal immigrants?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 22:09

    Yes, Roger, we should. If 50% to 70% of employees are working illegally, that means their employers are operating illegally… and that could be an even higher percentage of employers.

  22. mike from iowa 2015-04-14 06:38

    You can’t prosecute a korporation. They ain’t people, and aren’t subject to the same penalties as people,afterall.

  23. Nick Nemec 2015-04-14 09:08

    When my ancestors came to the United States all they had to do was show up at a European port with enough money to purchase a steerage class ticket on a ship to America. Look healthy enough to make it past the Ellis Island immigration official and it was “free land in South Dakota here we come.” My wife’s grandmother didn’t even have to look healthy for the officials since her husband to be had sent her enough money to travel second class. Second class passengers skipped Ellis Island and were disembarked at the docks on Manhattan Island and allowed to proceed without inspection.

  24. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-14 09:31

    If no one has to check if falsified IDs are accurate, then how much looser does the laws have to be.

  25. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 09:42

    Cory, I thought you meant they had committed real crimes in their own country before coming to ours. i.e. Real criminals. Your standard is dubious in my opinion, and perhaps you’re just being rhetorical. But if you want to hold to it, all of us living within the boundaries of the Treaty of Laramie are criminals. Right Roger?

  26. Jana 2015-04-14 10:49

    Almost feel bad for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development having to promote SD as the state that has an economic foundation built on cheap labor and government handouts.

  27. Troy 2015-04-14 11:08


    While there are Republicans who are “hawks” on legal and illegal immigration (some with motives I consider well-intended (even if I disagree with their position) and some will what I consider ill-motives), most Republicans I know are hawks on illegal and chaotic immigration but support legal and orderly immigration. I think you have an assumption or presumption opposition got illegal immigration means against all immigration.

    A couple of other random comments:

    1) The preference I mentioned wasn’t a preference to hire immigrants vs. citizens but a preference related to access to a streamlined process for legal immigration. For instance, a company which has a good history of following laws and regulations with regard to treating of immigrant employees, hiring those who abide by our laws both in getting here and while here, and go back if seasonal should be able to perform certain documentation and hold for inspection vs. depending on the process to go through Immigration. I know of businesses who have to initiate the process so far in advance they commit to hire 20 employees but only get 10 employees because the other 10 decide to just come and do the work illegally. We would be better served if all 20 were legal (even if the documentation were expedited and held for inspection by the employer.

    2) While I haven’t heard Noem or Rounds say anything on exploitation (doesn’t mean they haven’t), Thune has talked about it for years and so has our SD GOP Legislators. Remember a few years ago when there was a bill to make hiring, harboring, or assisting an illegal immigrant a “super crime” (meaning it transcended even providing humanitarian aid). While maybe you had to listen carefully and read between the lines, the principal opposition was it will push illegal immigrants even more underground and able to be exploited.

    3) With regard to hiring preferences, I support no hiring preferences or quotas. However, I think anyone in this country whether a citizen or legal immigrant (permanent or temporary) should be afforded the privilege of applying for the work and should be hired on merit. Period.

    4) No matter what the number of illegal immigrants we have here, I’m comfortable calling them all criminals. That said, I don’t advocate a wholesale rounding them up like cattle and transporting them out of the country. It’s not realistic, its inhospitable, and violates my values with regard to human dignity. They didn’t come here out of a desire or motive to do bad (like most criminals) but to fulfill a legitimate human aspiration- give their family a better life.

    My position (and I think is held by a majority of Republicans) is uncontrolled and chaotic illegal immigration is harmful. At the same time, we have millions of illegal immigrants who our economy is capable of absorbing. These are people whose human dignity warrants us giving them opportunity if we have it and they are willing to grasp it. That means we have to find a way to “convert” the immigrants from illegal to legal immigrants.

    While we could just make a declaration and change all illegal immigrants to legal, I oppose that because as charitable as it is to those people, it is equally unjust to those willing to do it legally. I don’t believe it just to be unjust to one person to be charitable to another. Justice is never served by denigrating another.

    I think the solution is to rely on basic human nature to rectify the problem (incentives and disincentives).

    On the disincentive side:

    1) Devise and enforce penalties for both employers who INTENTIONALLY hire illegals and illegals who agree to conspire with employers to subvert our laws to live and work here. Might this mean deportation or incarceration of dad to the detriment of family? Yes. There can’t only be upside for dad with no downside to breaking our laws. Too often we mistake giving a break to a specific lawbreaker as charity without regard to the anonymous person willing to follow the rules denied just opportunity.

    2) Secure our borders. Make it more difficult to cross. Get caught crossing illegally, you go on a list that is a lifetime ban of legal immigration.

    On the incentive side,

    1) Increase the number of immigrants from our NEIGHBOR proportionate to those willing and able to come to the US commensurate with the economic need for workers (temporary and permanent). Part of our problem is for political reasons we’ve pretended the right number is a low number and then winked (Republican and Democrat) when the actual number needed was higher.

    2) Create rewards especially for temporary workers such as ease going back and forth. If a worker has followed our laws with regard to getting a temporary visa and then gone back as promised, put that worker on a “preferred” list with regard to next year’s temporary migration. This will eliminate that “20 processed but only 10 show up” problem I mention earlier. Every year, one shouldn’t go back to the back of the line. Surety of getting documentation when the job is open and available will incentivize the worker to play by the rules. Also, a temporary worker who has followed the rules should get move to the front of the line with regard to permanent status. Finally, give preference to husband and wife who want to work legally (appeal to the underlying desire to come here- improve the condition of the family).

    3) Create incentives for the employer to follow the rules. Because of the size of the problem and our lack of resources to enforce the laws, employers do not have enough incentive to follow the law. Even if they are treating their employees justly, the cumbersomeness of the regulations make it “justifiable” to go outside the lines. This goes to my preferred status concept.

    I don’t have time to keep going on. My point is this nation will not find a consensus between the two options of amnesty and mass deportation. It is imperative we find a solution that is possible. Hopefully, if my ideas aren’t the best solution they give motive for both of the advocates of the non-starter positions to look for something in the middle.

  28. larry kurtz 2015-04-14 11:19

    shorter troy: slavery okay if slaves aren’t white.

  29. bearcreekbat 2015-04-14 12:04

    Troy, under your definition it appears that virtually everyone in America is a “criminal.” If a person comes to the USA to try to work and earn money for his or her family, but doesn’t follow the rules to a tee, how is that different than crossing the street in the middle of the road – jaywalking; driving 1 mile over the speed limit; forgetting to declare as income the money paid for items you sell at a rummage sale; etc, etc, etc? Your use of the term “criminal” to describe someone who means no harm and has no real criminal intent demeans our language and other human beings.

    The argument that providing a benefit to someone who hasn’t followed all the immigration rules somehow harms others is odd. How are you harmed when you obey the law, while I jaywalk or don’t get my immigration papers in order? You have the choice to jaywalk if that is what you want to do, and my actions nether support nor interfere with your choice.

    Finally, I find it puzzling and distressing when so many folks assert that all immigrants should just make things right, and do whatever is necessary to obtain the paperwork needed to avoid being deported or prosecuted, but have no understanding of the burdens and difficulties blocking this path. For an extensive description of the various means of getting the paperwork and the roadblocks that are placed in front of them see:

    For example, if you are Mexican wanting to legally come to the USA to work, you are competing with 1,316,118 Mexicans per year for 47,250 spots, which is the statutory limit. So if you find yourself in the group of 1,260,000 plus folks denied admission, you can either wait “in line” year after year and which your kids go hungry or you can cross illegally, go to work and began earning funds to support your kids.

    And after entering the USA without obtaining the mandated papers, there is “No “line” available for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants,” so unless there is immigration reform, each of these human beings must work under the radar.

    Finally, as implied in my initial paragraph, people who call other human beings “illegals” cruelly demean and diminish these peoples’ humanity, thereby encouraging hatred and discrimination. Are you sure you are comfortable in that camp?

  30. mike from iowa 2015-04-14 12:19

    This nation will never find a concensus between lily white Repartisans and our black Potus on anything.

  31. Jenny 2015-04-14 12:30

    Troy, you are going against the Catholic Church with its stance on being very staunchly pro-immigration (whether they come here illegally or not, it is a social justice issue). Oh, how the Church would frown down on you for calling destitute human beings coming here to stay alive “criminals”.

  32. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 12:47

    BCB, Troy and Cory, is this definition from Wikipedia sufficient to inform our discussion about what constitutes criminality and criminal intent?

    “Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It regulates social conduct and prescribes whatever is threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people. It includes the punishment of people who violate these laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation than on punishment.”

    If not, why not?

    If so, in what way are undocumented workers here intentionally behaving in a way that’s “threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people.”?

  33. Troy 2015-04-14 12:52


    Fair perspective. My point is I don’t pretend illegal immigrants are exactly that: here illegally which is a crime. At the same time, I don’t consider this a matter with which to approach with the diligence with which we would pursue rape because at the core their intent is pursuit of something good- a better life for their family. I tried to make that clear which I obviously didn’t.

    At the same time, winking at the illegality through lax or non-enforcement has consequences I think are extremely dire and unjust- having people in our midst living without basic human dignity.

    Regarding your point about using the abbreviated term “illegals” to refer to people here illegally, I think we too often use a word to describe a person attributing a single characteristic as if it is the whole of that person. I see in my haste to make my point I used the term and I apologize for it because it paints a picture which might obscure attributes that are of greater consequence. Every person is first and foremost a human being with God-given dignity.

    That said, In the context of talking about the death penalty (which I oppose), it is common refer to the person on death row as a murderer as short-hand to describe the applicable attribute in discussing punishment. While I regret going to the short-hand and not saying “illegal immigrant,” if we argue too much about terminology, we will fail to discuss and exchange ideas.

    Regarding most of your other points, I’m in general agreement:

    1) It is unrealistic to place all of the obligation to make things right on the illegal immigrant. The cycle of chaos will just continue.

    2) The current quota for Mexicans is unrealisticly low. I thought I was clear on that point. Get to a realistic number, then I think it reasonable we can place obligation on immigrants to make things right going forward.

    3) I agree we need immigration reform. Those on the left who want amnesty need to agree to accept something less because it won’t happen. Those on the right who think we can build a wall and deport every person here illegally need to agree to accept something less as that is just as unrealistic.

    What can happen begins if everyone admits the undeniable: We are going to have over 10 million people living in this country whose citizen ties are Mexico. And, then ask ourselves, do we want the current chaotic, divisive situation which ignores basic realities or do we want something realistic that both protects the integrity of our nation, its laws, and that of human beings motivated to make the lives of their children better?

  34. larry kurtz 2015-04-14 12:56

    undocumented workers here intentionally behaving in a way that’s “threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people” are straining the medical, education, and law enforcement industries meant for a privileged white class created over at least three centuries of slavery and genocide.

  35. Troy 2015-04-14 13:11


    Good definition. Note it used “and” with regulate social conduct. Also, immigration law is deemed a means to protect the citizenry (good for the welfare of the nation) and thus violation is a crime. That is how it works in a society desiring to live as a nation under the law.

    Second, intent is restricted to intention to break the law, not intent to do harm. A person who drives to fast and runs over a person doesn’t have to have intended to run over that person to break the law. They just have to have intended to drive too fast. A person who forgets to file his taxes tomorrow doesn’t have to intended to not pay taxes or even not file on time. Some crimes are objective without regard to intent. Finally, it is pretty disingenuous to assert a Mexican who comes across the border via crossing the Rio Grande vs. a border crossing is clearly intentionally chosen not to follow the border laws.

  36. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 13:15

    Emma Lasarus’s poem (below) is mounted on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. If the majority of my fellow American Citizens don’t really feel this way, perhaps its time to take it down. Perhaps we ourselves have become “the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land.” Listening to the neocons these days, and the rabid, xenophobic rhetoric of some among us, it’s hard to tell anymore where we as a nation stand. Conversely, perhaps we could together reconsider why we ever put it up in the first place:

    “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    …people in other countries still believe this about us.
    I vote we don’t make fools of them and of ourselves
    for misleading them do so.

    Either take the sign down, or live up to it.

  37. Troy 2015-04-14 13:16

    “is NOT clearly”

  38. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 13:22

    Yes Troy, I har you. Sorry, but I stand with Henry David Thoreau in that regard:

    “Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849. In it, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican–American War.”

  39. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 13:22

    “…hear you…”

  40. larry kurtz 2015-04-14 13:40

    A Hamiltonian Empire don’t need no stinking borders.

    Mr. Obama: tear down that fence.

  41. Troy 2015-04-14 14:41


    I’ve read Walden at least 10 times in my life and in the process of trying to finish it before it gets too nice this spring. I ascribe to the virtue of Civil Disobedience in the face of injustice. However, HDT didn’t pretend there weren’t consequences to opposition of what one deems unjust or attempt to claim that violating a law (just or unjust in HDT’s mind) wasn’t still a crime. In fact, opposition AND willingness to face the consequences was what gave Civil Disobedience its virtue as opposed to indulging in narcissism of self-selection of what laws should be followed. In fact, I believe the esssay to which you refer (or comment from one of HDT’s adherents) said when confronted by the authorities to be arrested, one should not resist but accept the chains willingly.

    Keep in mind the title says specifically CIVIL government which is acknowledgment the government is a reflection of the concerns and views of ordinary citizens presumed to be of good will. People of good will can disagree.

  42. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 16:14

    Yup, Troy, and if you’re an undocumented worker, getting deported is the potential legal consequence.

    So, if you and Cory want to call Thoreau, Gandhi, MLK, Cesar Chavez, Jesus, and poor people trying to feed and otherwise see to the needs of their families “criminal,” that’s your linguistic prerogative, I suppose. All I’m saying is that I’m not going to call them that.

    Semantics? Perhaps.

    But when it comes to debate, semantics is the only game in town. :-)

  43. Nick Nemec 2015-04-14 17:53

    It seems to me that an illegal immigrant is a criminal the same as someone who breaks the speed limit is a criminal.

  44. bearcreekbat 2015-04-14 18:04

    Bill, although your definition of “crime” helps a bit, it apparently is not a crime to stay in the USA after a visa expires according to “Ask a Lawyer.” In response to a query about whether someone could re-enter the US after overstaying a visa, the answer was:

    “Overstaying a visa is not a crime in the US. While it is a misdemeanor to enter the US without being processed, it is not a crime to be in the US illegally. Therefore, as a general matter, you cannot be jailed for trying to return. You can, however, subject yourself to civil penalties; for example removal and a ban on getting another visa.”

    Thus, under your definition, someone who is here after his or her visa expires, and now lacks papers, has not committed any crime at all. Hence he or she cannot be a “criminal,” regardless of intent.

  45. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 18:11

    Good to know, BCB. Makes me feel a lot better about our justice system. Now we need to get Troy and Cory to agree to drop the word, at least in the context you’ve outlined and researched. I obviously already did. :-)

  46. bearcreekbat 2015-04-14 18:20

    As for “amnesty,” it appears that those who oppose amnesty don’t understand what it is: “an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses. ‘an amnesty for political prisoners'”

    For the people – not the “illegal immigrants,” not the “undocumented workers,” or similar terms – but the human beings who lack the required paper documents, it seems especially cruel to deny them the opportunity to obtain that paperwork using an objection to “amnesty.” While it may be true that since there are a sufficient number of politicians who are eager and willing to disrupt the lives of families by deporting parents or children, and interfere with agricultural businesses that need this immigrant labor, based on their own peculiar objection to “amnesty,” that attitude seems fundamentally anti-family and confused.

    If we change our immigration policies to allow these human beings an opportunity to comply with “paperwork” rules, we are not granting them amnesty at all (since they have not been convicted of any crime, including political crimes), rather, we are simply correcting some unintended consequences of earlier immigration policies.

  47. mike from iowa 2015-04-14 18:32

    Let’s call them “beautiful losers” the perfect lodgers,the perfect guests.always willing to be second best.

  48. bearcreekbat 2015-04-14 18:36

    mfi – your terms are a great improvement, yet why not just call them “people” like you and I?

  49. mike from iowa 2015-04-14 18:38

    bcb-maybe it isn’t the immigrants that are the problem. Maybe it is one party’s desire to deny any political victory to the black guy in the White House.

  50. Bill Fleming 2015-04-14 18:52

    ‘People’ indeed. I’m all for it, Bat, as long as we don’t, by so referencing them, somehow confuse them with corporations. ;-)

  51. grudznick 2015-04-14 19:26

    Mr. bat, who is from bear creek, is right. We are talking about people.

  52. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-14 19:56

    Oh wise and learned friends, ye have spoken many wise words. This is my favorite:

    “Move to South Dakota where labor is exploitable and disposable!”

    Thank you Jana!

  53. leslie 2015-04-15 01:24

    nick; roger e. said “If you keep looking the other way, Yes those minorities will outnumber us in less than twenty years. But do not worry, Obama has proven that those other colored people can run the country just fine. And they will go to school and learn to vote as well. Just get used to all the changes that are coming.” 17:45 who is “us”, roger, what are you afraid of?

    land in SD wasn’t exactly free, though, was it nick (9:08)?

    isn’t this the republican party position in a nutshell? I find it pretty typical. today o’reilly said “if you are white and Christian male, they are coming after you.” isn’t this what you are saying roger e.?

    black president is doing well, huh? women doing ok too running the country? what does color and sex have to do with running the country?

  54. Bill Fleming 2015-04-15 05:15

    There is another aspect to all of this that is related to certain entrepreneurs who bring potential immigrants (aka ‘people’) into the country under false pretenses. These business people collect enormous sums of money from folks who want to come to the US and participate in the workforce, promising them jobs, permanent work visas, etc, etc. All in one package… Kind of a turnkey deal, ‘give us the money, we’ll get you in.’

    Fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, there was a delightful couple from South Africa who were here in Rapid City on that basis, and many of us in the Black Hills media scene became good friends with them. They were very open about their situation, how they had been duped, and how Immigration was allowing them and several others to stay in the country to assist in the investigation of the crooks bring them in and pocketing their money. After a few years, they were deported, and apparantly will never be allowed to return to the country (i.e. They are considered ‘criminals’ even as what they really were was ‘victims of a scam.’)

    Fast forward to the EB5 scandal. Wealthy Chinese immigrants buying their way into the country, provided the businesses they fund, run by amateurs, take off and create a specified number of jobs.

    Who are the real criminals here? The people who came in good faith to invest and work, or the ones who brought them here under shady auspices and circumstances?

    When I was working with the United Farm Workers, people were giving their life savings to ‘coyotes’… Labor organizers who brought workers from Mexico into the California produce fields piled in the backs of trucks and pickups like Africans on a slave ship. These people were lied to about their prospects when they were recruited in Mexico and were subsequently grossly abused and exploited by the growers when they got here.

    I went there. I know those folks. They’re not criminals. These days, I don’t even think of them as victims. I think of them as heros.

  55. mike from iowa 2015-04-15 06:54

    People is right and people they are,but, we need to add a qualifier as they are not yet American citizens and may not ever be citizens. Let’s give them a “special” handle so wingnuts can go bonkers over it.

  56. Lynn 2015-04-15 07:21

    Bill Fleming,

    With your background in working with United Farm Workers did grossly abused include exposure to dangerous chemicals and unsafe working conditions?

    Remember this story from Minnesota where immigrants were permanently injured working in unsafe conditions at a southern Minnesota pork processing plant and the compensation would never come close to covering their medical expenses or lost wages?

    Besides all the issues mentioned above I wonder how many of these employers here in SD will not offer the same protections that non-immigrants would have under law to increase profits, win a bid or be more competitive?

  57. Bill Fleming 2015-04-15 07:35

    MFI, John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, and Bruce Brouce Springsteen called them ‘Joad.’

    Lynn, absolutely. The living and working conditions were terrible in many cases, and it was not uncommon for workers in the fields to be sprayed with pesticides by crop dusters. Even worse, when I was there, workers being abused by other workers (goons from the Teamsters union who had ‘sweetheart’ deals with some of the growers) and also by local law enforcement. One of the main reasons we were all there was to stand between the workers and the people who wanted to abuse and exploit them. The other, of course, was to bring to public consciousness those things that no one wanted to see or discuss.

    It’s important to understand that we didn’t win that fight, and that it’s not over. It may be in the history books, but that doesn’t mean it’s history. It’s still happening.

  58. Lynn 2015-04-15 07:42


    When I traveled to California I quickly noticed there are so many main roads and schools named after Cesar Chavez. I didn’t realize the significance until I returned home and did a little research.

  59. Bill Fleming 2015-04-15 07:48

    Yup, Cesar was my boss. Amazing guy.

  60. Lynn 2015-04-15 07:50


    Wow! That is incredible! A historic figure!

  61. Bill Fleming 2015-04-15 08:04

    Here’s a pretty good overview. If you scroll down a ways, you’ll see a picture of Cesar with his son Paul. That was taken when I was there. My main job was to run a printing and communications department at La Paz, the movement’s headquarters. Paul (everybody called him ‘Babo’) came to work in the shop with us and learned how to be a printer. Eventually he took over the reins, and much later, I saw him on a national TV interview taking a leadership role in the Union but still identifying himself as ‘a
    printer.’ Needless to say, that was a proud day for me. :-)

  62. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-15 17:09

    The place in MN to go for Cinco de Mayo is Caesar Chavez Street in St. Paul. It is so much fun there I can hardly stand it, and my Spanish is only tourist level.

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