Gov. Kristi Noem shakes hands with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 21, 2023, near the nation’s southern border. Also pictured, from left, are Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Gov. Jim Pillen of Nebraska. (Courtesy of Gov. Noem’s office)
Sister Teresa Ann Wolf from the Mother of God Monastery in Watertown recently comforted a young, pregnant Guatemalan woman who collapsed in pain after crossing the Rio Grande River, her baby breached and both lives in peril.
Gov. Kristi Noem recently flew to the Texas border, where she joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and a few other Republican governors to grandstand on the issue of border security. She boasted about deploying “my” South Dakota National Guard to the Texas border.
She called the border crisis “a war. It’s a war for our country, and for our federal laws that have been passed in our Constitution. They are threatening our sovereignty right now, and the cartels are out for blood, and they are facilitating the trafficking of our children each and every day.”
Actually, it is not a war – that’s occurring in Ukraine where real bombs and bullets are killing people and destroying communities.
This is a humanitarian crisis caused by comfortable, privileged politicians like Noem, who will address the Freedom Conference and Festival on Saturday at a ritzy Beaver Creek, Colorado, ski resort. While they seek personal glory and political gain, others offer hope and compassion.
That is what Sister Teresa, Watertown Multicultural Center Director Jim Shroll, WMC board members Randy Howey and former Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron did recently.
They traveled to Mission Border Hope in Eagle Pass, Texas, where nearby in the river, Gov. Abbott ordered buoys and razor wire installed to deter immigrant crossings. Instead, they’ve caused injury and death.
Mission Border Hope, operated by a religious order, takes in immigrants brought by the U.S. Border Patrol. Some stay a few hours, some a few days before leaving to join family or friends elsewhere. Sister Teresa called the situation “inhumane” largely because “the whole situation has been politicized. It seems there is little concern about the basic humanity of these children, or anybody. It’s a continuation of a very cruel and heartless system.”
She said when politicians mischaracterize the immigration issue, real people are hurt.
“People come for a reason,” she said. “Usually, it is because they have no other choice, whether they are fleeing corruption, politics, gang violence or crop failures. Some come when they are threatened or have had a family member killed and are forced to flee.”
The vast majority are not criminals.
“They are hardworking, and they would do any type of work,” Sister Teresa said. “Contrary to what politicians say, they are not looking for handouts. They want to work. They need a hand up to get on their feet. They need a job, a place to live and to send their children to school. They are glad to take any work, at any pay to make a life, to work hard to support themselves.”
South Dakota, which Noem says has more than 25,000 open jobs, could use legal immigrants. Many already staff construction crews, dairies, cheese factories, meat processing plants and other factories. Some likely will serve Noem in Beaver Creek.
Instead of spending her time cutting commercials posing as a plumber or a dental assistant to attract new people to our state, Noem could pressure Congress to create a humane immigration system.
Sister Teresa pointed her finger at Congress.
If she could speak directly to South Dakota’s U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and Congressman Dusty Johnson, as well as Noem, this is what she’d say:
“In the name of God, in the name of justice, in the name of the Gospel, do your job,” she said with a tear in her eye and a fierceness to her voice. “Approach immigration reform with compassion, justice and timeliness. This is your responsibility, and you can’t push it off on other people or onto other political people. If you are not responsible, you are answerable to God.
“I always think of the Gospel of Matthew and the Last Judgment. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was sick, I was in prison, and you ministered to me, or you did not. There is no in-between.”
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