Governor Kristi Noem has issued a letter of consent for direct resettlement of refugees in South Dakota in 2020.
The letter is in response to a September executive order from President Donald Trump requiring consent from state governors as well as consent from county leadership where resettlement occurs.
Betty Oldenkamp is the president of Lutheran Social Services. She says LSS has been working with the Noem administration since the executive order was announced. Oldenkamp says she’s pleased with Noem’s announcement.
“We have the opportunity now to assist them to start a new dream, basically, in South Dakota, and to become contributing citizens in our state," Oldenkamp says. "We’re just excited to be able to continue what we believe has been our calling all along. That is to welcome the stranger in our midst.”
Lutheran Social Services handles refugee resettlement in South Dakota. Minnehaha County is the only county in the state where refugees are directly placed, though all refugees are allowed to move freely once they are settled.
According to federal policy, no more than 60 refugees can be placed in Minnehaha County in two thousand twenty. Lutheran Social Services says that number could end up being much lower. This continues a downward trend for refugee resettlement. In 2019, 180 people were resettled in Minnehaha County.
Lutheran Social Services must also seek consent from the Minnehaha County Commission to proceed with resettlement services in the new year. Dates for that decision have not been announced.