Taxpayers want to know. Source: Neal Tapio forms panel to assess cost of immigrants, refugees to state
PIERRE — A state senator on Monday said he would convene a legislative panel to evaluate South Dakota’s immigration and refugee resettlement programs with an eye toward the cost to taxpayers.
Sen. Neal Tapio, a Watertown Republican and likely U.S. House candidate, said he was worried about the added expense immigrants and refugees placed on the state and local governments.
“Each level of government has expended costs but we don’t know what the costs are,” Tapio said. “We have to understand the impact these groups are putting on limited financial resources of our state.”
Refugee resettlement advocates said they hoped Tapio’s panel would highlight the positive aspects of bringing refugee and immigrant groups to the state including cultural diversity and long-term boosts to workforce and earnings.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the efforts to probe the state’s immigrant and refugee placement procedures weren’t needed.
“People that seize the refugee issue and try to paint it as a threatening immigrant issue misunderstand that situation,” Daugaard said. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
While the workgroup has not yet met formally, Tapio said members would weigh bringing legislation rescinding the state’s agreement to allow Lutheran Social Services to resettle refugees in South Dakota or requiring additional state oversight over LSS.
“We need to suspend our refugee program until we understand how to vet people and we better understand who to vet through the refugee program,” Tapio said.
Lawmakers in 2017 passed a law that requires LSS to provide an annual report to the governor and the Legislature outlining the demographic information of refugees resettled in South Dakota.
Betty Oldenkamp, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services, defended LSS’ effort to keep lawmakers informed about refugee resettlement in the state.
“It’s our commitment
to be very open and transparent with our information with our work with refugee resettlement in South Dakota,” Oldenkamp said, “and I think we have a good history of providing that to elected officials.”
Oldenkamp said an assessment of the state’s immigration and refugee resettlement procedures should focus on the benefits to those who come to the state as well as those already living in communities where they are resettled.
“I would hope that it be a fair balanced look at resettlement and immigration,” she said.
Taneeza Islam, executive director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, questioned the need for such a workgroup and said Tapio’s calls for an investigation put “immigrants, refugees and Muslims in real danger.”
Tapio had not yet published the list of lawmakers set to comprise the panel on Monday. He said he would release the names later this week.
h/t refugeeresettlementwatch who notes about Taneeza Islam:
She came over from Minnesota where she was the “civil rights” director of CAIR. http://www.tislamlawoffice.com/attorney-profile
A few recent examples of the cultural diversity Muslim refugees and immigrants have brought to South Dakota already:
- South Dakota: Muslim refugee gets life sentence for sex trafficking of teen girls
- South Dakota: Days After Arriving in US, Muslim ‘Refugee’ Sexually Assaults Disabled Woman
- South Dakota: Somali Muslim refugee charged with attempted murder skips bail
- South Dakota Muslim Brandishing Guns, Ammo at Christian Conference: “Be F***ing Terrified”