Thursday, May 13, 2021

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From the Editorial Board

Perspectives on Immigration

Just last week this board wrote about the importance of keeping a focus on local news as a way to decrease political polarization in our community. New research shows that when discussing topics and issues close to home, we are actually far closer in opinion with our neighbors than we thought.

This week our editorial pages highlight two views on the question of immigration to America through our southern border with Mexico. We include these perspectives; one from our governor, Kristi Noem, and the other from former President George W. Bush; to show the variety of opinions on the issue even within the Republican party.

We offer these perspectives because the issue of immigration has come up in the news a lot lately. Part of our responsibility as a local paper is to present global events through the lens of our own community. The issue of immigration has become local as it has entered the collective consciousness. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the national discussion.

Indeed, South Dakota and its nine Tribal nations were plunged into the national debate on April 14 with a hateful and embarrassing tweet from the governor. She said, “South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate. My message to illegal immigrants… call me when you’re an American.”

The tweet kicked off a national discussion centering on the fact that South Dakota is built on land illegally taken from the tribes; the fact that Noem pledged to accept immigrants under the Trump administration; and the fact that 58% of the workforce in South Dakota’s meat packing industry are recent immigrants.

The overall question of immigration also touches on tribal sovereignty and independence, as it highlights the blurry line between federal decisions and tribal authority. For example, does the federal government have jurisdiction over an immigrant on Native soil? Can a Tribal nation decided to open its borders to immigrants?

In closing this board would like readers know two things. First, the issue of immigration is in the news more these days because it’s being pushed by special-interest groups as a way to further divide opinion and polarize us as a nation. It is wise to always be wary of hyped-up rhetoric that dehumanizes other people.

Second, the crisis on the border remains a bitter problem we have yet to solve as a nation. There are yearly ebbs and flows of migration and immigration. Neither President Trump nor President Biden have yet been able to find a sustainable, humane way to address the problem. The United States still needs inexpensive, willing labor in our fields and plants. We still have a moral obligation to support those in terror and fleeing their homes with their children. We MUST extend every comfort and care to children caught in the tides of history and not leave them to die in the desert or suffer irreversible trauma in detention centers. To do less demeans all of us, whether our ancestors lived here for thousands of years or came here from Europe seeking a better life. We are here through their choices and their endurance. We honor them by treating others with dignity.

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