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'Call me when you're an American': GOP governors refuse to help immigrant kids

‘South Dakota Governor’s tweet is un-American, racist and heartless,’ said a leader of an organization that aids immigrant children.

By Amy Lieu - April 15, 2021
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North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

Republican governors across the nation are declining federal requests to house unaccompanied immigrant children in their states, as the Biden administration is seeking support while it works to process the children and release them to carefully vetted sponsors.

The most recent refusal came from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who unleashed an anti-immigrant tirade on Twitter Wednesday.

“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,” Noem tweeted.

Her current stance on immigration is a stark reversal from what it was under the Trump administration, when Noem agreed to open South Dakota to accepting additional refugees in 2020.

A day prior to Noem’s statements, Nebraska GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that he had also rejected the Biden administration’s request.

“Nebraska is declining their request because we are reserving our resources for serving our kids. I do not want our kids harmed as the result of President Biden’s bad policies,” Ricketts tweeted on April 13.

He added in a separate statement, “The Biden administration should focus on working with Central American governments to reunite the children with their families in their home countries instead of pursuing the risky strategy of scattering them across the United States.”

But according to the Immigration Hub advocacy nonprofit, around 90% of the unaccompanied immigrant children would be reunited with a family member or sponsor already in the United States.

Additionally, Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds said on April 8 she had also denied the federal request to accept immigrant minors into her state.

“We will not do that,” said the Republican governor in an interview on WHO Radio. “We do not have the facilities. We are not set up to do that. This is not our problem; this is the president’s problem. He’s the one who opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this and he needs to stop it. So, at this point, no.”

Reynolds added that she wanted to prioritize the health and safety of the state’s residents. Similar to Noem, Reynolds’ stance was different during the Trump administration when she agreed to accept refugees into Iowa, the Associated Press noted.

The three governors’ decisions drew backlash from advocates and immigration groups.

Taneeza Islam is an attorney and the executive director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, a nonprofit that assists immigrant minors who live with sponsors.

“South Dakota Governor’s tweet is un-American, racist and heartless,” said Islam in a news release on Wednesday. “Her pattern of racism and bigotry towards immigrant communities is abhorrent. She is pandering to her base to get some likes on Twitter, on the backs of innocent and extremely vulnerable children.”

Darcy Tromanhauser, immigrants and communities program director at the nonprofit Appleseed, told the Lincoln Journal Star of Ricketts’ refusal, “Doing our part to connect any youth with family members in Nebraska is the right thing to do.”

“The humanitarian situation at the border is cyclical, not new, and this is not a crisis for the United States, but for the children and families seeking safety,” Tromanhauser added. “We have the capacity and knowledge to coordinate an effective humanitarian response.”

Joe Henry, political director of Iowa’s League of United Latin American Citizens, said, “shame on the governor!”

“As you know, Iowa has always been a welcoming state for refugees, under Gov. (Robert) Ray with southeast Asians in the ’70s and ’80s, and even with Gov. (Terry) Brandstad, when 50,000 refugees were fleeing Central America every month during the summer of 2014,” Henry said in a statement to a local Des Moines affiliate.

Henry said Reynolds was just pandering to a hateful political base.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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