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Monday, April 17, 2006

The three nation border war 

There are several items on the Internet that talk about another ramification of the U.S.-Mexico border issue. Most coverage talks about people crossing from the Mexican nation directly into the U.S. nation. But there's another nation out there that straddles both.

Yusef's Journal links to the following:

[T]his is a map from an organization called Humane Borders. They go out and put water stations in the desert and those blue flags are the water stations. Each station has about two or three 50-gallon tanks. And the red dots are the areas where people have died crossing the border through exposure, mostly. The orange area is the Tohono O'Odham reservation. The other half of the reservation is down in Mexico. That's another history of colonization and it's created really bizarre results....

One thing I didn't point out is that you'll notice there aren't any water tanks in the Tohono O'odham reservation and that's because they are kind of conflicted about whether or not they want to put water tanks out there. Some of the people in the community feel it would encourage more migration. Some of them feel that the immigrants and the drug traffickers are moving in the same place. They're more afraid of the drug traffickers, but it's a controversial issue....

I think the number [of people crossing the reservation] is fifteen hundred people per day. This is according to the tribal police in the Tohono O'odham nation. I don't know what the population of the reservation is but within a month if all those people were to stay, it would exceed it. So what Mike Wilson does is to go out and put water out in the reservation and he was kicked out of the reservation for doing this. But he still goes there to do it.

Here's part of a 2003 interview with Tohono O'odham Nation's Vivian Juan-Saunders:

ICT: Is the international border problem getting worse for the tribe?

VJS: Ever since efforts were taken to beef up security in other ports of entry in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California, that created a funnel effect where, because of the increase in security elsewhere, there was no other avenue of entry but the Tohono O'odham nation. I feel that as long as there's no attempt to secure the 75-mile-stretch that we have that is adjacent to Mexico, it will always continue to be in the state that it's in now.

ICT: Why has the tribe been left out of security plans?

VJS: The same reason that all tribes have experienced in years past. There's no respect for our tribal sovereignty, no respect for government-to-government consultations.

ICT: Has the tribe received any Homeland Security money since 9/11?

VJS: Not until recently, when we started to express our concern. We developed our data along with the help of some of the federal agencies to accurately produce the number of undocumented immigrants coming through our tribal lands. About 1,500 are crossing our lands every day, and close to 50 undocumented immigrants have died on our reservation lands since January.

Indian Health Service spends half a million dollars of IHS funds that should rightly come to members of our nation, and our health care needs are compromised because that half a million dollars is spent on health care for undocumented immigrants. Our local tribal police last year spent $3 million on responses to these situations involving undocumented immigrants, when members of our nation require local law enforcement to address their community policing needs.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs recently scheduled a hearing on the tribal amendments to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 in Washington. I testified on behalf of the Tohono O'odham nation. We support the tribal amendments for S. 578. We feel that our law enforcement personnel are at the front lines. Our local police officers already detain undocumented immigrants, but we wait for federal law enforcement to arrive. We feel that we need the resources to come directly to the Tohono O'odham nation instead of being funneled to the state and then through to the county.

ICT: Can you explain the proposed Tohono O'odham Citizenship Act?

VJS: It's to ensure that members of our nation who are without proper documentation be considered U.S. citizens. Some of them are veterans who cannot access benefits for veterans because of lack of proper documentation.

ICT: These people have lived all or most of their lives in the U.S.?

VJS: A combination. Some still reside in Mexico.

ICT: Is it difficult for people from the reservation to cross over the border to make family visits?

VJS: Yes. There are ports of entry on the east and west ends of the reservation, which are still quite a distance away. And even for ceremonial purposes, it's been difficult. But we have managed to work with the Mexican consulate in Tucson and with the border patrol. If we notify them ahead of time and give them a heads-up of the ceremony that will take place, they're very cooperative. We just feel that it was the U.S. and Mexico that negotiated the terms to place the border there, and it certainly wasn't us.

ICT: Some Mexican people crossing the border happen to be indigenous, too - looking for a better way of life.

VJS: It's not just people from Mexico, it's Central America. They're coming from all over. And our people are starting to notice the differences in features. Historically, our people have helped these immigrants heading north by providing food and water. But it's gotten to a point where we're so overwhelmed that it's placing a burden on our own resources.

This article appeared in June 2005:

Responding to the increased militarization of the U.S. border, and policies that they say are based on politics and propaganda, O'odham protested Homeland Security restrictions that result in intimidation and harassments for O'odham attending ceremonies on ancestral land in the U.S. and Mexico....

[Ofelia] Rivas is founder of the ''O'odham Voice Against the Wall,'' which is fighting a proposed U.S. border wall. It would dissect O'odham communities and bar passage on traditional ceremonial routes between Arizona and Mexico....

Rivas said that O'odham who carry federally issued tribal identification cards endure harassment by the Department of Homeland Security, which now oversees the U.S. Border Patrol. Federally issued identification cards are even confiscated by authorities, she said.

Recently introduced U.S. immigration legislation would require O'odham to carry U.S. passports to travel within their own territory.

And there was another article later in the year:

The tribe has augmented its modest revenue with proceeds from three casinos it began operating in the 1990s, but it still struggles.

The immigrant surge has mushroomed into an expensive problem for the tribe, costing an estimated $7 million, roughly 10 percent of the tribe's annual budget, in emergency medical care, trash cleanup and police services, tribal officials say.

"That's money that should be spent on health, education and development for our people," said Vivian Juan-Saunders, Toro's boss and chairwoman of the 28,000-member tribe.

Per capita income on the reservation was just over $8,000 in 2000, a fraction of the national figure of $22,000 and also well below the average for all Indian tribes, $13,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fewer than half of O'odham adults have completed high school, the lowest rate for all U.S. Indian tribes....

The deepening impact of immigrants is clear everywhere on the reservation, including Toro's home, where a group recently stopped by.

"They wanted food and we were eating so we gave them a couple of plates," she said. "We thought they'd be on their way, but they grabbed a bag of clothes on the way out. They want to dress like Americans to blend in, so they stole my grandson's clothes right under our noses."

Before visiting Noriega, Toro had led Garcia into the mesquite scrub to show him a pair of immigrant encampments she had recently discovered near her house. First they saw trash: empty tuna cans and Gatorade bottles, discarded toothbrushes and deodorant, abandoned blue jeans, brassieres and backpacks. The immigrants had collected some of the debris into black plastic trash bags, but more was scattered across the ground....

Garcia, a burly 42-year-old in his 17th year on the force, said it was about two years ago that he began spending more time coping with illegal immigration.

"Sometimes I'll stop a group of illegals, and I'll call the Border Patrol, but they'll say they won't have anyone available until the next shift in six hours," he said. "So I'll let the people go and tell them which way to Phoenix. I try to estimate the kilometers for them."...

The Border Patrol seized more than 130,000 pounds of marijuana on the reservation last year, according to Border Patrol spokesman Sean King.

Traffickers recruit unemployed Indians on the American side to run carloads of dope to Tucson, luring them with the promise of big money, Garcia said.

"These are kids who've never had more than a couple hundred dollars, so when they get $3,000, they'll do it again," he said. "They get hooked. You see a house that's poor, and it has a new car in the driveway, a big-screen TV. ... They know you know. But things get so bad out here."

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Hi! I found your Blog and BlogSearch, I think the dialogue on immigration is very important and must be discussed from all perspectives.

With your Canadian insights I would love to have you take a look at a mini-series I wrote on the subject and, if you want to, join in the dialogue…

My url is: www.debaterelatepontificate.blogspot.com
Very interesting. I had read the Orlando piece Stag linked to, but was not aware of the other one. I hadn't even thought about the impact of illegal immigration on the Native American reservations (which I'm ashamed of, being a scholar of such). This issue may be the impetus that finally blows the whole thing wide open. Being sovreign entities, the tribal nations can take the US government to task on this. The tribes can offer asylum to the immigrants if they want, which they have done in the past and which incited fatal rioting. But when you have thousands upon thousands of non-tribal people moving in and using up very limited resources, you've got a problem. Then there's the whole issue of people living on the rez but working off the rez, who are not obligated to nor protected by employment laws.
Jennifer, could you include more information on the asylum and fatal rioting that you referenced? Perhaps I can then apply my "Canadian insights" to it. (Hey, I'd rather be a Canadian than an Alaskan.)
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