Candidates for governor differ on immigration

Republican Daugaard: Enforce federal laws; Democrat Heidepriem: More important issues

staff reports • July 18, 2010

South Dakota is not considered a flashpoint for illegal immigration, but the issue still evokes strong feelings.

Two men running for governor - Democrat Scott Heidepriem and Republican Dennis Daugaard - next year could find a bill that crosses their desk modeled off of Arizona's controversial immigration law that is scheduled to go into effect July 29.

The Arizona law allows local law officers who come into contact with citizens - through a traffic stop, for example - to inquire about a person's immigration status if officers suspect the people are in the country illegally. It also allows those people to be detained.

Daugaard said he'd be open to signing a bill modeled off Arizona's. It makes sense, he said, because local law agencies already enforce other federal laws.

"It's definitely a states'-rights matter," he said. "I think many governors and candidates like myself are concerned about federal government actions infringing on states."

Heidepriem said that any bill passing the Legislature deserves "serious scrutiny" from the governor. "I'd certainly give it that, but I think there are much more pressing problems for South Dakota than illegal immigration."

Those problems include a deficit that could top $100 million next year.

Ultimately, illegal immigration is a federal problem, he added. Republicans and Democrats need to broker a deal that secures the nation's borders and then enforces violations.