Jorge Rivas / Splinter News & The Tohono O’odham Nation – 2018-04-20 23:16:05
Native American Tribe on US-Mexico Border
Blocks Trump’s National Guard Troops From Its Lands
Jorge Rivas / Splinter News
(April 16, 2018) — There’s at least 75 miles of the US-Mexico border where National Guard troops can’t go, no matter what President Donald Trump says.
The Tohono O’odham Nation says its people have inhabited what is now southern and central Arizona and northern Mexico since “time immemorial — in other words, way before any borders were put in place.
But a US-Mexico land deal in the 1800s “dissected” the nation’s indigenous lands in half. The tribe has been fighting border walls ever since so that their people can travel freely.
Now the Tohono O’odham people are worried about Trump’s plan to send “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000” members of the National Guard to the border.
Tohono O’odham chairman Edward D. Manuel recently went on a local radio station to tell members of the tribe that no National Guard or military personnel were welcomed on the land, according to a spokesperson for Manuel’s office.
The tribe also released a statement announcing the Border Patrol has agreed to not send military personnel to its land. (Border Patrol officials in the Tucson Sector, which covers the area where the tribe lives, did not respond to a request for comment.)
The Tohono O’odham Nation has opposed a border wall for years because its members cross the border daily for basic necessities and to participate in cultural and religious events.
In 1853 the United States paid Mexico $10 million for a 29,670 square mile portion of land in what is now called The Gadsden Purchase. The United States claimed the land was for a railroad and to “resolve some conflicts that lingered after the Mexican-American War.” But the purchase split the Tohono O’odham’s native lands in half, leaving some of its members in Mexico and others in the United States.
The Tohono O’odham Nation now controls the second largest Native American land base in the United States, including 75 miles of the USâ€Mexico border. The federally recognized tribe has about 34,000 members, including 2,000 who live in Mexico, according to the nation’s website.
The Tohono O’odham’s nation says they want to protect their homeland and that they already cooperate with the Border Patrol. But they say walls and military personnel are not a sensible solution to anything.
“A wall built along the border we believe is not the answer to securing America,” Tohono O’odham Nation vice chairman Verlon Jose said in a recent video released by the tribe. “Walls throughout the world have proven to not be 100% effective.”
The Hohono O’odham Nation Opposes a “Border Wall”
The Tohono Oâ€™odham have resided in what is now southern and central Arizona and northern Mexico since time immemorial. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 divided the Tohono Oâ€™odhamâ€™s traditional lands and separated their communities. Today, the Nationâ€™s reservation includes 62 miles of international border.
The Nation is a federally recognized tribe of 34,000 members, including more than 2,000 residing in Mexico. Long before there was a border, tribal members traveled back and forth to visit family, participate in cultural and religious events, and many other practices.
For these reasons and many others, the Nation has opposed fortified walls on the border for many years.
Border Impacts on the Nation
In 1993, Federal policy tightened border security at US ports of entry, which funneled the flow of undocumented immigrants into the Nationâ€™s lands and other remote desert regions.
The Nation continues to face many challenges due to this crisis. For more than a decade, the Nation has spent an average of $3 million annually on border security and enforcement.
The Nation’s police force typically spends 60% of its time on border-related issues. Drug cartels have attempted to infiltrate the Nationâ€™s communities and recruit tribal members as smugglers. The Nation has been working very hard over many years to address these issues. Building a border wall has never been considered a practical solution.
A Wall is Not the Answer
The Tohono Oâ€™odham Nation Legislative Council has passed over twenty resolutions opposing a border wall, most recently reaffirming that the Nation â€œopposes the construction of a physical wall on its southern boundaryâ€ (Feb. 7, 2017). The resolution lays out the many cultural, environmental, and historical reasons for opposing a wall.
However, the most straightforward reason is that a wall simply wonâ€™t work. The rugged desert environment, which includes mountains with sheer cliffs and washes prone to flash floods, makes a solid wall unworkable in many locations.
Experience shows that undocumented immigrants will simply tunnel under or climb over walls. These techniques are used frequently even in more populated border areas.
Drug smugglers have proven even more inventive at bypassing physical walls. Most recently, Border Patrol agents discovered smugglers had attached a catapult to an existing border fence designed to launch drugs across to accomplices on the other side.
The Nationâ€™s Existing Border Security Measures
In place of a static, easily bypassed wall, the Nation has taken the lead in partnering with agencies on a comprehensive, flexible and successful approach to border security. Measures include:
* Extensive vehicle barriers constructed 2007-2008
* On-reservation ICE office since 1974
* Two CBP forward Law Enforcement Centers
* CBP highway checkpoints
* TOPD is lead agency in NATIVE HIDTA Task Force
b>* Infrastructure improvements to roads used by CBP
* Regular town hall meetings with CBP
* Support for full staffing of ICEâ€™s Shadow Wolves
* Support for DHS-Nation coordination agreement
* Seeking funding to fill on-reservation radio gaps
* Moving to implement CBPâ€™s IFT surveillance system
Due to these efforts, there has been a massive 84% decline in the number of undocumented migrant apprehensions on the Nationâ€™s lands in just over a decade.
The most significant reduction came with the implementation and completion of the vehicle barrier.
Apprehensions nearly dropped in half at that time.
The Nation is profoundly affected by the border crisis and the policies that are being developed to address it. The Nation remains committed to protecting its members and the US homeland. The Nation simply wants a seat at the table in developing and implementing border policies that will impact its lands and people.
The track record of the last decade shows that close partnership between the Nation and other agencies is tremendously effective. The Nation hopes to build on this successful record of cooperation in its interactions with the new administration.
The Nation invites the President, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and other leaders to visit, see the unique challenges it faces, and begin a productive conversation on effective border security policies.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.