While trying to cut through a fog of fear, a newly formed coalition aims to fight for South Dakotans who land in the state looking for a better life.

Some bills presented in the 2017 Legislative session arose from elected officials who are somewhat anxious about refugees, immigrants and followers of the Islamic faith. The measures were beaten back and Taneeza Islam, an immigration lawyer in Sioux Falls says a small coalition was able to make a strong case against the measures.

“Last year it was very organic. We had amazing people come together such as military people who served in the Middle East come and testify about how scapegoating Muslims in South Dakota is not the way to go. It was just really powerful.”

Islam points to one bill and a couple of resolutions that surfaced in the previous session and her group plans to fight if more similar legislation arrives in 2018.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. Resolutions could be popped in and out (without prior notice). So far the preview of the bills that are coming down the pike in January have not indicated anything anti-refugee or anti-Muslim, but we’re ready this year.”

The organization South Dakota Voices for Peace was incorporated almost three months ago with the goal of advocating for more diversity and Islam was recently named Executive Director.

Along with monitoring the happenings in Pierre, Islam is also aware of a couple dozen instances of anti-Muslim speakers that were brought into the state for events over the past year.


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