Americans for Prosperity in South Dakota discuss solutions at the United States’ southern border, impacts on South Dakota

Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota chapter of Americans for Prosperity hosted a sit-down discussion with guest speakers at the Hampton Inn in Sioux Falls on Thursday. Among the guest speakers were Senator John Thune and Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Swenson and the central topic of their discussion was immigration and the southern border. Members of the AFP and multiple state leaders just got back from McAllen, Texas to see challenges at the border first-hand. They brought their stories from the trip to encourage open discussions on an important topic.

“Visiting with the private business folks of the water district, the gentleman that we visited with was saying that we have everything that we need to be able to solve this issue, to make our border safe, and to do immigration legally, but we don’t have the political will,” said the state director for the AFP South Dakota chapter, Keith Moore.

Moore also said that the residents they spoke to on their trip said that in the 2024 presidential election, residents near the border will be voting based solely on the issue of securing the border.

South Dakota may be hundreds of miles from the southern border, but issues at the border continue to have an impact on communities across the state.

“When you see some of the problems with fentanyl and methamphetamine and trafficking, every state kind of becomes a border issue. This has implications for law enforcement, it has national security implications,” said Senator John Thune.

Border policy is a multifaceted issue that doesn’t only impact national security. Thune and Moore say that the current policy implemented by the Biden administration incentivizes illegal means of entering the U.S. over legal means. Thune also says that the ability of immigrants to acquire H-2A or H-2B work visas has been more difficult under the Biden administration, which has had a large impact on South Dakota’s labor shortage.

“Pork producers, the ag industry, the dairy industry, the hospitality, the tourism industry, the visa issue is obviously a huge hindrance for them,” Moore said. “Opening up more opportunities for immigrants to work strengthens our economy. We’re a country of immigrants and we need to figure out a way on this border, the southern border to legally make immigration just better.”

Border and immigration policy is an issue that divides along partisan lines. Finding bi-partisan solutions might be difficult, but not impossible.

“Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something,” Thune described. “I think you’ve got to look at the areas where you agree and there are some general areas of agreement and start moving forward. There are a number of things in which I think there’s some agreement, but because neither side can get everything they want, we end up not doing anything and that just prolongs the problem, worsens it over time, and creates more of a humanitarian crisis and a national security crisis at our southern border.”

Both Thune and Moore acknowledged the number of immigrants seeking asylum, but they say that the current administration’s focus should not be an open border incentivizing crossing the border illegally because while it brings in immigrants without criminal intent, it has caused a crisis. They believe that the best way forward is securing the border and then improving the legal avenues to enter the country.

“Any human being who has a heart obviously is going to look into the eyes of some of these kids, and I have, that have been apprehended and caught as they’ve been trying to come into the country illegally, sometimes with their parents, sometimes on their own,” Thune said. “These traffickers grab these kids and traffick them into this country and who knows where they end up. There’s forced labor. You don’t even want to sometimes contemplate some of the ways in which some of these kids are being abused. There is a humanitarian side to this and I think we have to be concerned about dealing with this issue in a humanitarian way. We’re a nation of immigrants, but we’re also a nation of laws. That’s where we talked about a big gate and a big wall.”

Senator Thune also stopped by the Dakota News Now studio earlier on Thursday. You can view the full conversation with him on the subjects of immigration, the farm bill, and more here.