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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Illegal Workers: Sanctions On Employers Dies In Committee

By Victoria Wicks
A bill to sanction employers who hire undocumented workers didn’t jump the first legislative hurdle Wednesday. House Bill 1175 proposed a probationary period for employers found to have illegal employees and stronger sanctions for subsequent offenses. The sponsor says South Dakota has a large population of illegal workers, but an opponent says that’s not the case.
Representative Stace Nelson says the need for translators in court and English as a Second Language courses in certain schools proves the presence of illegal immigrants, because, he says, legal immigrants are required to speak and understand English.
And he says employers are exploiting these workers.
“We are faced with modern-day slavery right here in South Dakota,” Nelson says. “Now people try and say, ‘Well, it’s okay, we give them a wage that they can’t have in their home country.’ But they’re here, and they’re without rights. They’re an illegal status, and they live in conditions that are not appropriate.”
But a spokesman from the Governor’s office says otherwise. Policy advisor Nathan Sanderson testifies that South Dakota has one of the lowest populations of illegal immigrants in the nation.
“I would argue that this is a bill that would place our employers in South Dakota in situations where they would have to defend their hiring practices, basically defending what they do already in compliance with state and federal law,” Sanderson says.
The House Commerce and Energy Committee killed the bill by just one vote.