Democrats Respond to Governor’s Fear Mongering Speech About the Border


January 31, 2024

This afternoon, Gov. Kristi Noem delivered a fear mongering speech about the situation at the border. She said that the people who are crossing the southern border are “known terrorists, criminals, human traffickers and drug cartel members”.

Ahead of the speech, several Democratic lawmakers spoke with South Dakota Voices for Peace, which lobbies against discrimination of immigrants, refugees and Muslims. The organization’s CEO Taneeza Islam says that the US has some of the strictest measures in place at the border under the Biden Administration. She also says the phrase “open border” is used to create fear and hate towards immigrants and people of color.

Research in Texas showed that US born citizens were more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, property crimes, and drug crimes when compared to undocumented immigrants. According to research from the CATO Institute, the criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 for undocumented immigrants, 535 per 100,000 for legal immigrants and 1,422 per 100,000 for native-born Americans.

“Governor Noem made a statement today that all of the people coming across the southern border are criminals. We don’t agree,” said Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister. “There are a lot of these people seeking asylum in the United States, trying to get away from poverty and other issues that they have to live and deal with everyday. There’s some good people that are coming across our border.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that immigration has a positive impact on both innovation and growth within communities. With South Dakota’s workforce shortage and low unemployment rate, the state needs immigrants to help fill those jobs and sustain our agriculture, manufacturing, construction and hospitality industries.

Gov. Noem also said that drug cartels are impacting South Dakota’s tribal nations. Rep. Eric Emery of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe released the following statement:

“The tribal communities in South Dakota face a wide range of challenges on a daily basis,” said Rep. Emery. “While the illegal presence of drug cartels is a valid concern that must be addressed, I do not believe it is the largest issue facing our tribes. Lack of access to adequate healthcare, housing, and education are much more significant issues taking place. However, it is encouraging to see South Dakota’s governor and legislative members share concerns about the safety of our reservations’ residents. While the State of South Dakota may not have jurisdiction to intervene, we must work together to protect our state and our people. This requires collaboration, exploring legal options, and supporting initiatives to secure our reservations and state. Our responsibility is crystal clear – we must safeguard the Oceti Sakowin Oyate.”

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba also released a statement, urging US Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds as well as Congressman Dusty Johnson to support the bipartisan immigration reform bill.

“Much of what Gov. Noem had to say about the problem at our border, I agree with,” said Sen. Nesiba. “We need to tighten up our border security, we need to have more agents, and we need better control over the border. But we are a nation, not just of states, but we have a federal government. Federal government is what takes care of our immigration policies and our border. President Biden has known for months that this is an issue. He’s been working in a bipartisan way to address this in Washington DC. And what we need is Senator Thune, Senator Rounds and Representative Johnson to meet with President Biden to reach this solution. What the President is talking about is the fairest and the strongest, most secure border that we’ve had in decades and what we need is that bipartisan solution. So rather then giving a speech that sounded an awful lot like a campaign speech today, what we instead need her to do is use her influence to reach out our Congressional delegation to reach an agreement with the President and enact this policy.”

Sen. Nesiba just introduced a Senate Concurrent Resolution “Urging the South Dakota Congressional delegation to work with the Biden administration to address the nation’s immigration system.”

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |