“Call me when you’re an American,” Governor Noem takes to Twitter for controversial immigration statements

Governor Kristi Noem lashed out at the immigration policies of President Joe Biden, stating that South Dakota would not accept any migrants who came to the country illegally.
Migrants are processed at the intake area of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility,...
Migrants are processed at the intake area of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.(Dario Lopez-Mills | AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, Pool)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 8:45 PM MDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - As an influx of immigrants make their way to America’s southern border, Governor Kristi Noem says that she does not intend for South Dakota to accept them.

However, that decision is ultimately not hers.

“The state, governor, cities, counties... Nobody has any authority over federal immigration law,” said Taneeza Islam, Executive Director for South Dakota Voices for Peace. “These children, when they come to South Dakota, they aren’t part of any agency. They are staying with people they presumably have a relationship with, and are vetted through the Health and Human Services office of refugee settlement.”

Islam also called the Governor’s tweets “un-American, racist, and heartless.”

Former President Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing states and cities to refuse to accept refugees. Current President Joe Biden struck down that order in February.

The announcement comes in light of the Biden administration asking states to volunteer to house displaced migrant children. However, Noem’s office said that they had not been asked directly by the administration to do so yet.

From October 2020 to February 2021, only 20 unaccompanied minors came to South Dakota. Islam says that although Voice for Peace has not seen a notable increase in the number of immigrants coming to South Dakota since the beginning of the Biden presidency, they have not ruled it out as a possibility either.

“We are expecting a surge of young children who are at our border right now to make their way up to South Dakota,” Islam said. “(And) Probably see our numbers increase.”

Immigration advocates say that immigrants play an important role in South Dakota’s economy. Namely in its two biggest industries, agriculture and tourism.

“If we learned anything through the pandemic, immigrants and refugees are essential workers in our economy,” said Islam.

Noem’s office said that their “policy” would not extend to immigrants who came to the country legally, and that they would be welcoming to those who came to the state by those means.

Noem previously committed to accepting refugees into the state under President Trump. She defended the departure from that policy as being due to more lax immigration policies under President Biden.

Governor Noem is the third Governor in the region to commit to not taking in immigrants who come to the country illegally, after Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts and Iowa’s Kim Reynolds. Experts speculate that the controversial style of Noem’s announcement is part of a broader appeal to a national audience.

“She is one of those people who is being talked about as a potential presidential candidate, or at the very least, someone who is trying to position herself as having a strong hand in choosing the nominee for president in 2024,” said South Dakota State University Political Science Professor David Wiltse. “I think what we are seeing is mostly political positioning, political posturing.”