SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota will not participate in the next round of refugee resettlements that the White House announced last week.
The only resettlement program in the state, Lutheran Social Service’s Center for New Americans, won’t take part due to the immigration debate, director Tim Jurgens told the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/2cSUHB7 ). Opposition has been strong in South Dakota since last fall, as Gov. Dennis Daugaard and other Republican governors across the country pushed back against federal efforts to relocate displaced Syrians to their states.
“There’s people that fall on both sides of this particular issue,” said Jurgens, whose organization has a yearly cap of about 420 refugees.
The United States will strive to take in 110,000 refugees from around the world in the coming year, the Obama administration said last week, in what would be a nearly 30 percent increase from the 85,000 allowed in over the previous year. The increase reflects continuing concern about the refugee crisis stemming from Syria’s civil war and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Daugaard was among those who signed a letter last year asking the White House to “suspend all plans to resettle Syrian refugees,” citing gaps in the vetting process of refugees in the wake of November’s Paris attacks. The suspects in the attack were primarily from France and Belgium; GOP leaders had noted that a Syrian passport, now believed to be fake, was found near one of the suicide bombers.
Lutheran Social Services also ignored the White House’s first effort to spur resettlement, the newspaper reported, and plans to end a direct resettlement program in Huron by the end of September.
The number of refugees that have relocated to South Dakota has decreased steadily over the past few years. The state welcomed 646 refugees in 2012, but the number was 484 last year. So far in 2016, 381 refugees have been relocated to the state.
Wilson Kubwayo, a refugee from Africa, questioned the agency’s reasons to keep the yearly cap. He said refugees depend on those programs to leave camps and achieve their personal goals.
“For me, the very lifestyle I cherish today is because of the people who chose to open their hands to my family,” Kubwayo said.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com