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South Dakota Business and Agriculture leaders call on Congress to take up immigration reform

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 7:46 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A virtual roundtable was held Wednesday among several leaders in the South Dakota agriculture and business sectors, to discuss the need for immigration reform.

Those involved say Congress should act swiftly to fix what they said is a broken system.

South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry President David Owen says a better and easier way for immigrants to legally work in the country is needed to allow the economy and communities of South Dakota to grow.

“We thought convened by one of our policy folks, there was an opportunity to highlight how important immigration is,” said Owen.

The panel of South Dakota leaders was joined by a member of the state’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Karen Benitez-Lopez. She shared the difficulty immigrants face to gain citizenship or the right to work.

Benitez-Lopez says DACA recipients need to re-apply to the DACA program every 2 years.

“In 2012 I was able to receive DACA, it was presented as a temporary thing until they found a permeant solution. Unfortunately, it is now way past 2012 and it has not progressed since then,” said Benitez-Lopez.

During the roundtable, the Executive Director of the South Dakota Retailer’s Association, Dr. Nathan Sanderson shared the need the state of South Dakota has for more immigrant workers.

“There are 23,000 plus job openings posted on the states job website right now, there are about 3,000 people on unemployment, so even if 100% of those folks are receiving unemployment benefits went back into the workforce, we are still about 20,000 jobs at least light of where we would like to be.”

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