January 8, 2018 State Senator Neal Tapio released a statement today announcing his intention to create a “legislative working group” to review state legal immigration and refugee resettlement. South Dakota already has a law on the books passed in 2017 that provides the information Senator Tapio is seeking now–SB 124 was co-sponsored by Senator Tapio and signed into law by Governor Daugaard March 17, 2017.
“Senator Tapio doesn’t have the unilateral authority to create a “legislative working group”; he has to propose a bill or resolution that fully funds this type of study before it can take place,” said Samantha Spawn, policy and communications director for South Dakota Voices for Justice. “This is duplicative of last year’s passage of SB 124, which Sen. Tapio was a co-sponsor of, and we are confident that legislators will see it as such and not support funding a study where similar information from the state’s only refugee resettlement agency is being provided.”
At a September 2017 event in Aberdeen, which featured identified anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant/refugee speaker, Shahram Hadian, Senator Tapio boldly explained to the audience that last year Muslim Brotherhood and terrorists were in Pierre, with the help of the mayor of Aberdeen and Aberdeen Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce, to defeat his resolutions. He also said this year he was “building an army” to “take our country back”.
(Tapio speech starts at 2:23:00)
“Senator Tapio was not on a ‘listening tour’ through South Dakota, he was a sponsor of spreading xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant and refugee bigotry across the state. Throughout 2017, Tapio endorsed speakers like Shahram Hadian and Trevor Loudon, who are identified hate speakers by various think tanks and organizations around the country,” said Taneeza Islam, Executive Director of SD Voices for Peace. “The facts are immigrants, refugees and Muslims add value and contribute significantly to South Dakota’s culture and economy. In 2014, immigrant led households in the state paid $58 million in federal taxes and $32.6 million in state and local taxed. Undocumented immigrants in SD paid $5.3 million in state and local taxes. Rhetoric like Sen. Tapio, an elected official in our state, mobilizes his base and puts immigrants, refugees and Muslims in real danger. We have received complaints of SD Muslims being threatened on social media, receiving hate messages, and DREAMers told they would be reported once DACA expires.”
South Dakota Voices for Peace (education arm) and South Dakota Voices for Justice’s (lobbying arm) mission are to empower South Dakotans with accurate information about Islam, Muslims, immigrants and refugees to fight Islamophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry in order to nurture informed, inclusive, and civically engaged communities.