It’s easy to casually read Governor Kristi Noem’s December 20 announcement that South Dakota will accept refugees in 2020 as deserving praise. Journalist David Lias properly reminds us that Noem’s announcement is really just more anti-refugee Trumpism in thin disguise:
Noem, speaking of Trump’s executive order and her signing of a letter of consent regarding it, said, “These assurances and a responsible screening process ensure that South Dakota’s interests are best protected so we can support continued participation in the program.”
South Dakota’s interests have never been put in danger by refugees. The state’s future, however, may suffer because so few refugees will be settling here thanks to Trump and people who think like him [David Lias, “Noem Credits Trump for Horrible Refugee Policy,” Vermillion Plain Talk, 220.01.03].
Helping more refugees should be a moral imperative for the richest and professedly most Christian nation in the world. Welcoming newcomers fleeing war and oppression is good for our souls and our economy. Yet Noem is cheering a policy that means South Dakota gives shelter to far fewer people in need:
Betty Oldenkamp, the president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader last month that South Dakota will get fewer than 80 refugees this year. That would be the fewest number of refugees resettled in the state since 1980, the year the nation’s refugee resettlement program was created. In 2014, the state took in 536 refugees.
“We really think that it’s important for South Dakota to continue to welcome people, especially those that have experienced persecution,” Oldenkamp said.
Sadly we can’t. We can’t because of draconian immigration policies. Horrible policies regarding refugees that Noem regretfully credits “to the leadership of President Trump” [Lias, 2020.01.03].
And as Noem slyly acknowledges in her December 20 statement—”For the communities that want to welcome these refugees, I support giving them that opportunity“—she and Trump are still giving local communities the power to bar refugees from settling in their portions of America. The notion that any American jurisdiction can say to any person legally present in this country “You can’t live here” is immoral and unconstitutional… but that’s exactly the xenophobic and illegal order that Governor Noem is praising.
Related Reading: A federal court may moot Noem’s fakery. Three refugee assistance organizations sued the Trump Administration in November over its illegal scheme to give state and local governments veto power over refugee resettlement. If Governor Noem really accepted refugees, she’d have sent Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to join Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, and nine other suits in their December 13 friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiffs and refugee resettlement. A Maryland federal court hears oral arguments in that lawsuit on Wednesday.