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.
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.
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.