Should refugee placement be about opening our hearts, and less about the federal government?

From the Argus comes a story on how the State’s lone refugee placement center is not increasing their numbers for refugee placement, despite what the federal government is asking them to do:

South Dakota won’t participate in the White House’s next push to increase the number of refugees escaping poverty and violence.

The director of the lone resettlement program in South Dakota said it would not participate in the federal effort, citing the debate over immigration in the state.


Fewer refugees are finding a home in Sioux Falls and the rest of the state in recent years in spite of the federal government’s wishes. Lutheran Social Services plans to end a direct resettlement program in Huron at the end of the month.


LSS also ignored the last attempt by the White House to spur resettlement. Last year, the administration bumped the goal from 70,000 to 85,000 refugees and South Dakota’s numbers continued to wane.

The nonprofit is spending $5.4 million to buy and remodel the old Kilian Community College building in an effort to expand space for refugees. It asked the public to pitch in $1.25 million this spring. But the improvements aren’t designed to make room for a larger caseloads.

“It just simply allows us to consolidate programs and allow for more efficient services to individuals throughout the community,” Jurgens said.

Read it here.

Over history, refugee resettlement and the community objections to it have been one of those issues that never goes away. It’s been with us for a good chunk (or all) of our national history.

It just changes form over time.

By J H Johnson -, PD-US,

By J H Johnson, PD-US,

It’s interesting as I’ve done extensive genealogical research, you see as these new American families start out dirt poor when they hit the shores of our nation, and over generations build themselves up in affluence and social status.

My great-great grandparents hit the shores as a Boston maid and a paper mill worker at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment in America made today’s objections look mild.

One of their sons was a cigar factory worker, and his son, an attorney and lobbyist. At that point in the early to mid 1900’s, public prejudice against Irish Catholics had largely gone away as they’d assimilated into the American fabric.

The questions and fears over modern refugees are the same, but a bit more complex than they were 160 years ago.

Back then – not dissimilar from now – support for these new Americans came from churches. But in these modern times, a far greater proportion of support comes from public tax dollars. And it’s not just housing support – it affects communities on a much wider basis.

Imagine dropping a number of families who have a very limited, if any, mastery of the english language in a typical South Dakota town. Given that we guarantee a free and appropriate public education, the children of these families may require ESL instructors, and a great amount of public school support. All of this costs taxpayer dollars.

Further adding to the complication in South Dakota is that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Until these refugees can find gainful employment, we’re further subsidizing them until they can find jobs.

Since the Cuban resettlement in the 1960’s, the Federal Government began to take the primary financial role in assisting refugees. And what does the federal government do better than anything else? Dump their problems and decisions on lower levels of government.   Some people like to characterize resettlement objections as prejudicial, but I can’t help but note that communities and Americans have always had a hard time when decision makers in Washington try to ram their decisions down people’s throats.

In South Dakota, we’re fighting the EPA over unilateral and somewhat stupid decisions on coal emissions and the waters of the US. Don’t even get me started on their pipeline stupidity. So, why wouldn’t everyday citizens take other decisions seemingly made by a federal government from 1500 miles away with a grain of salt?

Yes, absolutely, some of it is implemented locally. But that’s not how the average everyday citizen sees it.  And I would argue that the federal government’s involvement does not help things at all.

The federal government has their goals for refugee resettlement. LSS has their own goals for refugee resettlement.  And amazingly, this is all subsidized by the American taxpayer.  The parts people see in the equation are “refugee,” “federal government” and “taxes.” And things go downhill from there.

It’s less a matter of stone-hearted communities as much as objecting to what they see as unilateral placement decisions by fiat, at their expense.  I don’t believe that helps communities accept significant numbers of people who – like most immigrants – start out their time in a country alien to them in poverty as they start their journey to catch the American dream.

We all come from somewhere. But maybe it should be about opening our hearts, and less about the federal government.

40 Replies to “Should refugee placement be about opening our hearts, and less about the federal government?”

  1. Springer

    Two big differences with today’s immigrants, legal and illegal. Immigrants of the past saw the US as a land of opportunity and wanted to assimilate into our culture, language, etc; sure, they kept some of their original homeland traditions etc, but they did respect and honor our American way of life, flag, Constitution, laws, etc. Many of today’s immigrants do not adhere to these same beliefs; they want to live here and make us accept their customs, beliefs, laws, etc.

    Also, immigrants in the past had to have a sponsor who was responsible for their expenses until they could get employment, and they had a limited amount of time to get employed. Also, they had to be healthy or could be turned away or quarantined until granted admission to the US. Both of these insured that the immigrants would not end up on the public dole or have contagious illnesses. Neither one of these seem important to our govt anymore. They welcome them, sick or not, and say don’t worry about anything, we will support you with free education, health care, housing, and all the rest. Just come!

    As I’ve said before, I’m the daughter of a proud immigrant to the US from Denmark. He had a sponsor, learned English by himself (and even left one community and job where Danish was spoken by many and would have made life easier for him because he wanted to become American). This was the ethic of past immigrants, and it should be of every immigrant to this great nation. If an immigrant doesn’t intend to assimilate, support himself, and abide by our laws, why come here? Why not go to a nation more in line with his beliefs?

  2. Troy Jones

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. On my mother’s side, her dad’s family were political/religious Catholic refugees from Germany (Otto Von Bismarck is still whispered as evil) who had first spent two years in a Luxembourg refugee camp resettled to the US. Also, on my father’s side, her mom’s family came from Denmark fleeing something as it was never talked about. Because their name was “Mann”, some in our family think they were Jews fleeing Germany via Denmark (anti-Semitism was rampant in Germany under Bismarck).

    Personally, I have a pretty open attitude toward both refugees and immigrants as well as the quantity. Bring your culture, religion, and family traditions. We will be better to learn about them. If you want to assimilate right away, I welcome you into American society. If you want to transition slowly and live among those who have the same background as you, I respect that as well.

    But, as I would do the same if I moved to your country, I have two caveats:

    1) I expect you to love this country more than you love your homeland. Otherwise, you need to stay there and make it better. You wouldn’t leave your spouse for one you love less, you wouldn’t leave your job for one you like less, and you certainly shouldn’t leave a homeland for one you love less.

    2) I expect you to respect our laws and traditions. If you can’t do that, stay where you are or go somewhere you can respect their laws and traditions. You wouldn’t like it if I came to your house and started smoking cigars at the table and when told “we don’t do that in the house” if my response was “But I do in my house.” Or if I said your Viking mementos in your house was offensive to me and to take them down (or replace them with Packers mementos). Being hospital doesn’t mean you get to impose on me.

    Whether you are a household, a business, a city, or a nation, one can’t be all things to everyone. If you try, soon you become no things to everything.

    1. Fled2Red

      Well spoken Troy. My Dad’s side of the family had a similar path as Pat’s. Irish Catholic when Irish need not apply. Mom’s parents are from Sicily, brought over by their parents when they were very young (Yes, my parents did meet in CCD. Why do you ask?). We still honor many Irish traditions and cook Italian foods, but we love our country. (The current government, not so much, but we love the country).

      One of my grandma’s (Mom’s mom, the one from Sicily) prized possessions was a small framed picture of her late husband in his navy uniform. Grandma proudly reminded us that he fought in “the war” (of which there was only one of in her mind). If you wanted to see the Sicilian temper, you could push her buttons by asking which side he fought on. To her, there was no question as to where their loyalties were.

      Note that many immigrants do love this country, but still speak fondly of home. I often see problems with the second generation deciding that “the old country” was better and they should transform the US to do things the way that Mom and Dad speak of the old country. The kids forget that there is a reason mom and dad left–things just might be a little better hear.

    1. Springer

      There’s no way the USA is going to solve the problems of the world via immigration into this country. We have an obligation to help the less fortunate in the world, but not necessarily by bringing them all here or allowing them to come here illegally. And we do this with foreign aid etc already and through the work private and religious organizations. But there is no way that even the USA is going to solve this problem.

  3. Spencer

    I think Lutheran Social Services needs to be a little less about immigrant nepotism and more about fair refugee placement. The lady in charge of LSS in North Dakota was a refugee herself. Coincidentally, most of the refugees placed through ND LSS under her administration happen to be friends of hers or her family’s. Consequently, ND LSS is concentrated on settling “refugees” from a war in Central Africa that happened 20 years ago. Unfortunately, Lutheran Social Services is more about pay to play and special inside favors than about kindness or good Christian ideals. If you want to help immigrants or real refugees, send your money elsewhere.

  4. Porter Lansing

    I absolutely like to characterize resettlement objections as prejudicial. “We The People” and our federal government aren’t attempting to take South Dakota’s rights. We’re keeping you from doing it to somebody else. Our federal gov’t isn’t 1500 miles away. It’s you and it’s me and it’s us as a group doing things the group deems prudent even if another much smaller, much less diverse group wants to ignore the majority and act in their own selfish interest. It happened to the Irish, to the blacks, to the Indians, to the Vietnamese. It happened pretty regularly to anyone who wasn’t the same. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. If it takes 21 paragraphs to try and salve your guilt and to assuage your religious transgressions (WWJD?), that’s a tell of massive apology.
    It’s less a matter of stone-hearted communities. It’s more a matter of stone-hearted segments of those communities unwilling to reach out a hand like was done for their ancestors.

    1. Springer

      :Your arrogance, hubris, and whatever else is over the top this time. I have no need to apologize for wanting to ensure that those who seek to come to this country come for the right reasons and intend to assimilate, accept our values, and obey OUR laws. That is my litmus test. I have no guilt and I have no need to assuage any religious transgression. Our country has always reached out a hand to help those in need, whether by immigration or foreign aid or Peace Corps or whatever. But it does not mean that we need to commit national suicide in the name of “helping others” who are not interested in assimilating, obeying OUR laws, accepting our culture, and may just very well be an actual threat to the citizens of this country. I think you, Porter, would welcome no borders, no laws on immigration, and the eventual result of this would be the end of our country. I think you need to think some of these things through before you comment. (Not that I believe you will even see how bigoted you appear to be to anyone who doesn’t think like you.)

      1. Porter Lansing

        Where does it say assimilate on the Statue of Liberty? Who gave you the right to litmus test anyone? What makes your culture superior and something others should strive to? Certainly not your tolerance and understanding of things you don’t like. I need to be different before I can comment? That’s not American. That’s wrong.

        1. Springer

          Each country has its own culture. I prefer mine. You might prefer another. Citizens of another country probably prefer theirs. BUT, if I emigrate to a foreign country, I do NOT expect them to conform to my cultural preferences; if I intend to live in a foreign country, I am expected to conform to their mores and culture. I don’t personally care what another country might want for their culture, laws, etc. I do care when they come to our country and intend to impose their culture on ours – refuse to honor our flag, want to impose Sharia law and courts, refuse to learn English, etc. Just how long would any nation last if it didn’t expect its citizens to obey one set of laws or adhere to one set of cultural norms? We can see how well that is working out in parts of Europe where even the police are afraid to patrol. And Porter, you ARE different and you are commenting; I never said you couldn’t; it’s a free country after all.

        2. duggersd

          The Statue of Liberty does not have laws on it. It has a poem. However, we do have a Constitution. We do have state and local laws. We do expect people who wish to come to this country not to try to kill people in this country. We have been told by people from ISIS and Al Qaeda that they are infiltrating our country. We have learned that people in Mexico are helping people from the Mid-East cross our border. Unless the refugees can be properly vetted, they need to stay where they are.
          I do not care if someone wants to worship his/her god in a way I do not, as long as their worship does not include human or animal sacrifice. I do not care what color someone is. I do care that they can live with us and we with them. Yes, that is a litmus test. And no, that is not wrong.

          1. Porter Lansing

            You’re afraid of Muslim followers, also? Where do you think that comes from. Most people aren’t you know?

            1. duggersd

              I do not know where you get this “afraid” business. I do not invite people into my home unless I am sure they have no desire to hurt me or my family. The same is the way it should be with our family. Since you bring up Muslim followers, I believe I said that I believe we should only allow people in our country who are willing to follow our laws. Many people of the Muslim faith believe Sharia law should be dominate over our own Constitution. BTW, about your inane questions. Where do you think that comes from? Again, be careful when you sit down. We would not want you to break your neck.

  5. Noddy Holder

    Does this mean the turkey plant in Huron, all those hunting lodges around Pierre that whined for Essential Air Service for an airline to that crazy ARRA-funded airport, and roofing companies will have to look elsewhere for their cheap labor?

  6. Troy Jones

    Well Porter, except for personal attack, I see no substance in your comment. So much for your truce. It was as sincere as your non-apology apology.

    1. Porter Lansing

      It was a decision not to personally insult you, off topic. Not to stop pointing out your faults. When you start bullying people you’ve never met and wouldn’t have the courage of your convictions to say to their face, I’ll give my side. We all know what happens to bullies.

  7. Troy Jones


    Article 1, Section 8 (“To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”) gives Congress the power to have a litmus test. And,as a US Citizen you have the right to petition your government and vote for candidates who have the same views on the “rule of naturalization.”

      1. Troy Jones

        Not act like a dictator and override Congress’ authority? Sounds just like what Obamastake tried to do on immigration until the courts slapped his hand.

        Your double standard has no bounds.

  8. Troy Jones

    And Dugger,

    Those who think we should be indiscriminate with regard to our refugees and immigrants should spend a year singing songs songs from these childish simpletons in ISIS compounds and see how long they last.

    1. duggersd

      Less than the amount of time it takes to sing the song! But at least the dead people will be able to tell God they were open-minded.

  9. Pat Powers Post author

    Porter, I’m the one deleting the off-topic insults. I’ve cautioned you before that they are subject to deletion.

  10. Troy


    You and your IT guy just plead the 5th which is par for your ilk. I couldn’t delete your post if I wanted to because I didn’t originate the thread. You make unsubstantiated claims, character assasinations, and innuendo repeatedly which speaks to your basic character.

  11. Charlie Hoffman

    It’s about as unfair to say “Throw all those bums out” when speaking of Congress as is it too say that all refugees are terrorists. The difference is we vet Congress locally every few years while little if any serious vetting is being done on the masses of refugees coming into America under Obama’s decree and once they are here we are screwed.

  12. duggersd

    Porter, since you are so high-minded, why don’t you tell us what you think we should do. We have a group of people that normal people refer to as followers of radical Islam. These people are out to kill or maim people who are not followers of THEIR religion.
    In 1941 we saw a marked reduction in the number of people immigrating from Japan, Germany, and Italy. This is because we were involved in a WAR with them. Even though all Japanese, Germans, and Italians were not out to cause us harm, with good reason there were restrictions. I do not disagree that during WWII things went too far, especially with the internment of the Japanese, but would you have welcomed all Germans, Italians and Japanese or would you have had some restrictions.
    Yesterday, we had an attack by someone yelling “Allah” who was stabbing people who apparently were not of his religion. There were two bombings by someone who may or may not have been followers of radical Islam. Just in the past few months there have been major terror attacks by people who were followers of radical Islam in France, Germany and Italy. Most of these were perpetuated by people who were followers of radical Islam. These are people who are attacking innocent people. What do you propose to do about it? Just take it?
    You have all kinds of criticisms for people who believe something needs to be done, but you have no solutions. This is why I firmly believe you either have your head up in the gas passing section of the sitting section of your body or you are nothing more than a troll. To be honest, I do not believe anybody is that stupid.

    1. District 3 Democrats Against Electing Cory Heidelberger

      Once again we are observing this Porter Lansing from the Heidelberger drug culture, anti-religion & anger obsessed wing of what has taken over the state Democratic party to make a strong argument over another issue and what do we get? Insults, unsubstantiated claims, character assasinations, and innuendo again.

      Hoping they will get a clue and move on after they get trounced in November.

  13. Jon

    There wasn’t any welfare when my ancestors came. They were allowed to come to America because it was good for the country at that time. Now we have 100 million folks not working and people coming to get a government check…. that’s not good for the Country.

    For the low wage immigrants who work…. how is that not a form of corporate welfare? The same folks who howl against lowering corporate tax rates and reducing regulation support giving businesses low wage workers. That allows them to have the most control over the businesses, the workers and the tax revenue. Take away the illegal labor and reduce taxes then wages would rise naturally…without the need for any minimum wage.