On January 25th, President Trump signed a broad ranging executive order meant to curb “illegal immigration”. This order covers countries overseas in the Middle East, as well as countries south of the U.S. border. A key part of his presidential platform, this order is intended to start the planning of a wall on the southern border in an attempt to stop migrants from Mexico, Central and South America from entering the U.S. While there are many angles and considerations that this executive order brings up, perhaps one of the hardest to resolve will be figuring out how to build a wall along 62 miles of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Southern Arizona.

The Tohono O’odham Nation is a sovereign Native American nation that sits to the west of Tucson. They are one of the few native peoples to still live on their traditional homelands. At roughly 2.8 million acres, they control the second largest expanse of land of any native tribe.

Opponents of the wall would argue that building a wall might not necessarily curb immigration, which has been declining in recent years. As the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Department of Public Safety says,

Vehicle barriers, added resources and joint cooperation on the border is working. Since 2003, there has been an 84 percent drop in migrant apprehensions on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. There were 85,000 apprehensions in 2003, and 14,000 in 2016.

The unique position that the Tohono O’odham occupies in this debate is the effect a wall would have on their people and way of life. The Tohono O’odham Nation land extends into Mexico, which would mean that building a border wall along the Mexican-U.S. border would essentially cut the Tohono O’odham nation in half. The proposed wall would create huge obstacles for the citizens of the nation. Many people have family on either side of the wall. While they have gotten used to the border patrol agents and fencing that currently protect the border, a wall would severely interrupt their day to day lives. As reported by Tucson.com, “About 2,000 of the tribe’s members live in Mexico, and many of them use services such as the dialysis clinic, which is on the U.S. side in Sells.” Members of the tribe regularly commute between the two sides of the border. They have family on either side, as well as traditional heritage sites that a border wall would prevent people from visiting. The significance of a wall that separates the two sections of the tribe is not lost on some. Jacob Serapo, a Tohono rancher, explained that he has a convenient water source in Mexico, but access has been so restricted that he must now travel four miles north of his ranch to another well for water.

He chuckles as he states,

There’s no word for wall in his language.

This problem has created resistance from citizens of the nation. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Tohono O’odham nation have both expressed sharp opposition to the proposed wall. The Vice-Chairman even said that the border wall would be built over “my dead body”.

A video on Youtube HERE was produced to explain why the Tohono O’odham are opposed to this wall. The Tohono O’odham nation does have certain sovereign rights in this regard, including the right to determine what is best for its citizens. However, this fact is no guarantee of protection against a stronger executive order or an act of congress. Traditionally, sovereign rights have not created strong protections against an activist Congress or President. In addition, Congress does have the constitutional power to amend the powers of sovereign states. It would be within Congress’s power to limit the rights of the Tohono O’odham nation to object or block a border wall. This issue may be one that is resolved in the halls of Congress.

Let Congress know where you stand on this issue.
Please call your representative today!

For those of you living in Tucson please call your D.C. representatives at:

Senator Jeff Flake
Tucson Office 520-575-8633
Washington, D.C Office 202-224-4521
Senator John McCain
Tucson Office (520) 670-6334
Washington, D.C Office (202) 224-2235
Representative Martha McSally
Tucson Office (520) 881-3588
Washington, D.C Office (202) 225-2542