‘That’s called asylum’: S.D. Voices for Peace executive director discusses migrant children in South Dakota

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota’s governor is receiving quite a bit of attention tonight for her tweet on “illegal immigrants”.

In the tweet, Noem said quote “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.”

This comes as the federal government requests states accept migrant children. The governors of Iowa and Nebraska have also denied the request.

“The end of that tweet was really just shocking. ‘Call me when you’re an American.’ I’m not sure why a leader of a state, who was elected by people in this state, would talk to South Dakotans like that,” Taneeza Islam, the executive director for South Dakota Voices for Peace and an immigration attorney, said.

Islam says there are more than 500 unaccompanied minors from Central America in South Dakota.

“These children, I mean, everybody, according to US law and international law, can ask to seek refuge in the United States if they’re getting persecuted in their country of origin,” she said. “That’s called asylum.”

Islam says these children come to the United States to get away from violence.

“To look into those kids’ eyes and to hear their stories of seeing family members murdered and police not helping, to be kidnapped from school and witnessing the murder of your mother and abuse of your mother, and being hazed to join a gang when you’re six or seven years old, I mean, these types of things are rampant,” Islam said.

She also spoke of a young boy who loves school but was afraid to go outside because in his home country he had been kidnapped. Islam says in the three years he’s been her client and living in South Dakota, she has seen him evolve.

“He loves school, he loves friends, he loves playing outside, he’s an avid reader, he helps his mom learn English. These are children. You know the thing that really keeps our staff going is how hopeful kids are, you know, regardless of the trauma they’ve been through,” Islam said.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection website, in March alone there were more than 18,000 unaccompanied minors taken into custody along the Mexico border.

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