PBS provides a reminder for South Dakota’s anti-refugee legislators that Huron’s economic salvation has been refugees. Reporter Christopher Booker speaks with Dakota Provisions HR director Mark Heuston:
CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Between 2005 and 2014, a U.S. resettlement program admitted 73,000 refugees from Myanmar, long governed by a military dictatorship, until last year.
Heuston began recruiting the refugees in 2007, when during a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota, a magnet for refugees from Myanmar, he met a small group of Karen people willing to move to Huron.
Nine years later, through word of mouth and family ties, what started with 3, has expanded to more than 600 Karen workers.
MARK HEUSTON: Without the Karen people, we probably would not be able to run the turkey plant [Christopher Booker, “South Dakota Town Embraces New Immigrants Vital to Meat Industry,” PBS Newshour, 2016.07.02].
Huron’s population has bounced back 22% since its nadir in 2006. 46% of Huron’s K-12 students are now Asian or Latino. If the Trumpist attitudes against refugees exhibited by some South Dakota legislators prevail, Huron and other communities will lose access to the international workforce they need to survive.