The yahoos are at it again in Pierre. Rep. Scott Craig—a Christian pastor who should know better than to be inhospitable to strangers—is leading Aberdeen’s Novstrups and several other fear-mongering Republicans in expanding government bureaucracy to suit their xenophobic sloganeering against Syrian refugees and other people who don’t look and pray like they do.
House Bill 1158—cribbed from anti-refugee legislation floated in Tennessee, New Hampshire, and South Carolina— would create a bureaucratic nightmare for refugee resettlement organizations in South Dakota. The state office for refugees (a new agency this bill would create) and all refugee resettlement organizations would be required to meet at least every three months with city and county government representatives to discuss plans for resettling refugees. Those entities working with refugees would have to execute letters of agreement with every agency—schools, DSS, hospitals, law enforcement, etc.—that might provide services to refugees. HB 1158 requires the state office for refugees and refugee resettlement organizations to send copies of those letters of agreement to the House and Senate State Affairs committees, local government budget committees, the Secretary of Public Safety, the Attorney General, local law enforcement chiefs, and “the head of all local educational agencies in the state.” Refugee resettlers must also file yearly reports with that same long list of officials with the following information:
- Copies of statistical and programmatic information provided to the federal government;
- Copies of the written policies of the refugee cash assistance program, including agency policies regarding eligibility standards, the duration and amount of cash assistance payments, the requirements for participation in services, the penalties for non-cooperation, and client rights and responsibilities to ensure that refugees understand what they are eligible for, what is expected of them, and what protections are available to them;
- Copies of any written public or private refugee cash assistance program operating at any time in the calendar year;
- A report documenting the number of refugees sanctioned for failure to comply with the requirements of the refugee cash assistance program, and the number of determinations concerning employability, or failure or refusal to carry out job search or to accept an appropriate offer of employability services or employment, resulting in denial or termination of assistance;
- A certification that women have the same opportunities as men to participate in all services provided, including job placement services;
- Any report of crime committed by a refugee who has been resettled in the state, or crime committed against a refugee who has been resettled in the state, whether prosecuted or not; and
- A report delineating:
- The total number of refugees resettled;
- The total number of refugees under the age of eighteen resettled;
- The total number of refugees between the ages of eighteen and forty resettled;
- The total number of refugees between the ages of forty and sixty-five resettled;
- The total number of refugees over the age of sixty-five resettled;
- The total number of refugees who are women and men, respectively;
- The public assistance benefit programs that the refugees have applied for or enrolled into;
- The total number of refugee minors enrolled in public schools;
- The total of refugee minors accessing English language learner services.
Sorry, kind fellow beings fleeing war and tyranny, but we’re too bogged down in regulation and bureaucracy to extend liberty, opportunity, and safe place to sleep to you and your children.
HB 1158 empowers the state office of refugees to approve a one-year moratorium on new refugee resettlement activities in any community where the local government can establish that letting in more refugees would “result in an adverse impact to existing residents.” Essentially, if a city or county commission can show that letting in more refugees would result in teachers, translators, cops, or a clerk at the courthouse having to put in more hours, or job applicants having more competition, or some public budget line increasing, they can say, “No more refugees this year.” HB 1158 also empowers the Governor to impose a statewide ban on refugees.
We should apply this thinking to House Bill 1158: Rep. Craig, Rep. Novstrup, Senator Novstrup, and the other Republican sponsors of this bill would result in an adverse impact to existing residents of this state by increasing bureaucracy and state expenditures to create a legal framework that ultimately we need not and cannot exercise, because the feds regulate immigration. So says the Attorney General of Tennessee, which, like South Dakota, is still subject to the United States Constitution:
Question 1: May the legislative branch or the executive branch of the State of Tennessee refuse to accept for resettlement within the State individuals whom the federal government has processed and admitted to the United States as refugees?
Opinion 1: No. Such a refusal would impinge on and conflict with the federal government’s authority to regulate the admission of aliens to the United States and thus would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution [State of Tennessee Office of the Attorney General, Opinion No. 15-77: “Authority of the State of Tennessee to Refuse Resettlement of Refugees,” 2015.11.30].
Republicans make a lot of noise about being strict Constitutionalists, but they keep filling our legislative hopper with unconstitutional ideas. Republicans make a lot of noise about shrinking government, but they are happy to expand it when it suits their desires. Republicans make a lot of noise about America being the greatest country in the world, but they apparently don’t think we’re great enough to open our doors to refugees and win them over to the American way of life.
Update 11:08 CST: Senator Brock Greenfield and known refugee paranoiac and peddler of false information Rep. John Wiik pile on with another anti-refugee bill, Senate Bill 119, which would require the Department of Social Services to get legislative authorization to participate in any agreement with the feds to participate in the Refugee Act of 1980, which is the national refugee processing policy Brock, John, please remind us why you are so all fired determined to prevent us from helping people from other countries who think they’d be better off leaving their troubled homelands to come to America?