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Andover Dairyman Demands Immigration Reform, Tells Thune Hispanic Workers Don’t Want Citizenship

Senator John Thune comes to Groton, and we get more pro-CAFO propaganda for loosening immigration rules to provide South Dakota dairies with more easy-to-exploit foreign labor:

Randy Schuring, cie-president, South Dakota Dairy Producers
Randy Schuring, vice-president, South Dakota Dairy Producers

“You talk about the labor situation in Aberdeen right now — you can’t find anybody,” said Randy Schuring of Andover, who also serves as vice president for South Dakota Dairy Producers. “We milk 1,200 cows 24 hours per day and the better half of our workforce is Hispanic. If it wasn’t for them, we’d be shut down. When we built our facility, the state said ‘there will be people looking for work.’ When are we going to tackle immigration, which is an issue that needs to be addressed?” [Bryan Horwath, “Thune Stop Prompts Immigration, Vets Talk,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.18]

Side note: once again, the state leaps before it looks, promoting a dairy industry which South Dakota’s underpaid workforce can’t support.

Senator Thune has no specific plan for helping our CAFOs get immigrant workers more easily. He only knows we don’t dare give let those hard workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and other points south become citizens:

Senator John Thune
Senator John Thune

Thune said he didn’t have an all-encompassing solution for the issues surrounding America’s complex immigration quagmire.“I’ve always felt like just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something,” Thune answered. “There a lot of parts of the immigration issue that 60-70 percent of the American people are for. The issue of citizenship is very divisive. There is a way to allow people to still be here with guest worker permits or something like that, which allows people to contribute and participate” [Horwath, 2015.04.18].

Contribute, participate, but not vote, not shape the laws under which they labor as hard as anyone else in our great and welcoming country. Schuring told Thune at yesterday’s Groton meeting that Republicans should stop using citizenship as an excuse not to act on immigration reform and that his workers don’t want citizenship. I’d prefer to hear that straight from the workers’ mouths rather than their bosses (since when do we trust management to speak for labor?). However, national statistics indicate Schuring’s claim may be mostly true: out of 8.8 million green card holders in the U.S. eligible to pursue citizenship, 780,000—less than 9%—naturalized in 2012. If those national statistics hold for Schuring’s more-than-half Hispanic dairy force, if 9 out of 10 of those milkers and swampers aren’t interested in obtaining U.S. citizenship, what’s the harm in offering it to that last tenth? To speak in pure political terms, Schuring is saying a path to citizenship would not swell the voting rolls with immigrants who would vote Democrat. By this logic, the slim-at-best increase in Dem-leaning voters should be a minor cost for the GOP to pay in exchange for the guest worker program and other reforms that would keep big dairies and other CAFOs afloat with cheap immigrant labor.

As we discussed Monday, South Dakota’s big dairies and our Congressional delegation want easier access to  a workforce with fewer rights. But offering workers what they deserve is the price of doing business. Whether 10%, 50%, or 90% of those dairy workers want citizenship, we should offer those hard workers a path to fully participate (i.e., vote) in the society they support with their labor.

Related: The Migration Policy Institute estimates that South Dakota has 4,000 unauthorized immigrants. Only Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont appear to have fewer. Wyoming has 5,000. Nebraska and Iowa each have 37,000. Minnesota is the regional leader with 81,000.

Looking at Census data, the Migration Policy Institute finds that in 2013, 2.9% of South Dakota’s population was foreign-born. About a third have become U.S. citizens. 7.4% of Minnesota’s residents were born in other countries, and over half have become citizens.


  1. larry kurtz 2015-04-18 07:52

    What prevents these potential terrorists from tampering with South Dakota’s food supply, Senator Thune?

  2. mike from iowa 2015-04-18 08:05

    Gee Sinator,when you say “doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something” I’m guessing your constituents took that “doing something” as something more than standing behind party leaders and smiling and collecting your over-generous pay and benefits.

  3. mike from iowa 2015-04-18 08:07

    Rumour has it Thune and Noem collect disability from the fed. They both get constant tension headaches from smiling so much.

  4. mike from iowa 2015-04-18 08:12

    and a rilly big positive of bringing in more foreign workers is you can tax them for SS and Medicare(which they will never receive) to rebuild the trustfunds so the koch bros won’t be taxed more.

  5. Frank James 2015-04-18 08:23

    The other important point here is the people of Groton and Aberdeen don’t want these jobs. Why should this kind of a development be the priority in the state? No one wants the jobs and the benefits go to a very few at the expense of the environment.

  6. Tom Lawrence 2015-04-18 09:11

    Someone should grab a notepad and go talk to the workers.
    Increasingly, Hispanic workers in Midwest states are settling down, raising families and sending their kids to college. The transitory workers of past decades are being replaced by people who want to make South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and other states home.
    Of course, that would be easier if they were citizens.
    Some do plan to return home. When I toured several dairy farms a few years ago, a few of the workers told me they intended to return to their home countries. But some are married and are putting down roots here.
    This Cornell study makes the point well:
    I interviewed one of the authors, Cornell Population Center Director Daniel Lichter, whose parents live in Mitchell. Lichter earned his undergraduate degree at SDSU and is an expert on this changing pattern in small-town America.
    You would think a senator would want to assist hard-working, family-oriented people who are reinvigorating small towns and providing labor to local farms and businesses. They are here to stay.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 09:26

    Thinking of Thune’s planlessness, can anyone point to any major policy initiative created by Thune that has been enacted?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 09:31

    I wonder, Frank: is the state deliberately promoting industries that don’t offer jobs that local workers want, thus not promoting any wage competition with the existing industries? Economic development is supposed to offer more opportunities and improve everyone’s wages; the CAFO strategy seems to create a separate labor market for low-wage immigrant workers that does not draw South Dakota workers out of their current jobs or push other employers to pay more to keep those workers from jumping ship.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-18 10:27

    When you want to close the borders and keep your big business buddies happy is a catch 22 where Thune does not want to do to much or to do nothing because either direction would be a problem for him.
    As long as we allow cheap labor in we will never get the family farm back. That is because the family farmer wants to make a reasonable living and competing with under paid labor will not appear efficient. This is just another way to undermine the minimum wage.
    The workers in South Dakota know they have a job because they will work below minimum wage. HIspanics got way more than the minimum wage milking cows in the state of Washington when I was there. They do not want to become citizens for fear they will lose their job. Does not mean that they would not like to be citizens.
    But if you see rich guys are good people that sit in church with us and everyone else is cheap labor, then you would not see this as a problem. But many of those cheap labor people are religious and keep their family values as well.

  10. Richard Schriever 2015-04-18 10:30

    Not only are many of the workers employed at these facilities not SDn’s, almost none of the people employed in constructing the facilities are SDns, and not much more to gravel comes from SD providers during the construction process. Structural and systems maintenance – almost exclusively out-of -state providers as well. Maybe we could call them long-term tourists (CAFO Campers)?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 10:44

    Sí, Tomas, yo quiero, pero no hablo suficiente español.

    That’s good firsthand observation, Tom. However many of those workers want to put down roots and stay (and I’m pretty sure it’s more than management will tell us), we should welcome them to the American family and give them a path to citizenship.

    And from a business and community perspective, people who are here to stay might give more of a dang, they might work harder, and they might contribute more to the communities where they work and live.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 10:47

    Good point, Roger! If the employee tells the boss he wants to stay and become a citizen, that might deter the boss from keeping him around, because that’s an employee he might eventually be less able to push around. We thus can’t take what the boss has heard from his immigrant employees as an accurate reading of those employees’ desires.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-18 10:48

    Well, Richard, if we call them campers, we almost have to let them vote. We let RVers vote here even though they only sleep here one night and buy little other than license plates. Workers putting in 60+ hours a week and living in cheap company trailers ought to get at least as much consideration, right?

  14. Frank James 2015-04-18 11:00

    Cory: I’m not sure I would go so far as to say this is the plan the state has. However, the impact of the state’s policies are exactly as you describe.
    The surprise to our leaders is young people don’t want jobs in agriculture. Instead many want to be farmers.
    it’s this trend I think the state should be prioritizing.

  15. jerry 2015-04-18 12:31

    Correct Cory, I have done research on Tehran John and have found nothing, nothing at all that he has done for the state of South Dakota. I think I have been pretty thorough with my work on this. Why not allow dual citizenship for both Estados Unidos and the country of the workers origin, that would make sense in the background checks of those workers and it would allow them to draw the social security and other benefits they have paid for and richly deserve for their hard earned labors. The workers would be here for a minimum of 5 years as green card carriers, after that, they could apply for citizenship and passport benefits. The background check would make sure that the worker was not a criminal and he or she would have to pass the rest of the requirements as well.

  16. MOSES 2015-04-18 23:06

    Tehran John dont forget Snooki

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