Senate Panel Refuses Refugee Ban From Muslim Majority Countries
A Senate committee is voting down a proposal that ends the refugee resettlement program in South Dakota from countries that appear on the federal travel ban list.
However, if passed, officials with the governor’s office say Senate Bill 200 would get overridden by federal law.
Currently, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota assists with refugee resettlement in the state. According to its website, in 2017, LSS helped 316 refugees settled into South Dakota.
Matt Konenkamp is a policy advisor to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office. He says the federal Refugee Act of 1980 would not allow the state to refuse refugees.
Konenkamp says refusing those who are running from oppressive groups is not something the governor would support.
“Refugees are fleeing the sorts of regimes we’ve come to detest,” Konenkamp says. “For instance, ISIS has undertaken the genocide of the Yazidi people, and, of course, if a Yazidi is applying for refugee status, it isn’t necessarily because they hold the same belief system as ISIS. Because, in fact, they’re being persecuted for the opposite reason. They do not believe in what ISIS believes in.”
Konenkamp says new enhanced screening by the federal government for refugee applicants is a safe process.
Republican State Senator Neal Tapio brought Senate Bill 200. It suspends resettlement of refugees from six Muslim majority countries, and North Korea.
Tapio says he didn’t expect the bill to pass, but he wanted to start a conversation.
“Can you have a freedom of religion and have a hateful and deadly ideology that believes you should be killed for leaving your faith. Then the question is is it even a faith, right?" Tapio says. "So, can those two things be compatible? That’s what we really have to wrestle with. So, when you ask about is this something that Jesus would preach or agree with, what Jesus would say is you know longer have to have the law. That you no longer have to be killed for the way you believe.”
Tapio says he wanted to bring the issue of the War on Terror to the state legislature’s attention.
The Senator from Watertown has announced his intentions to run for South Dakota’s lone congressional seat.