Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Arizona Senate Bill 1070, Already Seriously Affecting Native Americans?

On April 23, 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer signed the infamous Senate Bill 1070, which makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and requires that police officers inquire the immigration status of all individuals who show “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally.

There has been some controversy surrounding the topic of SB 1070, much of it was before the bill even became enacted, but there were still some very real effects already impacting specific Arizonans. While there has been much debate about the effects that SB 1070 will have on Arizona citizens, there is one group of people that are quite often left out of that discussion, the Arizona Indian Nations.

On July 21, 2010, Arizona State Senator of the District 2 senate seat, Albert Hale, invited a panel of various leaders called, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, to provide comments regarding SB1070 and its' possible impacts on the tribal reservations.

In that meeting, Senator Hale makes the statement,

“We need to inform those communities who will be subject to the law and what to expect. We need to discuss solutions and to bring groups together for common positive dialogue.”-Navajo-Hopi Observer

But, in order to see this idea through, it will demand resources that tribes are already scarce on. So, an addition to that alternative has been integrated into this bureaucratic process to repeal 1070, involving the aspects of tribal sovereignty.

Over the years, modifications have been made through various acts, treaties, court cases, and laws to establish the current understanding of the term, tribal sovereignty. Basically, it means that tribes retain the rights to domestically self-govern and only the U.S. Congress has the power to override through the federal courts. So, any attempts made by the State to govern within tribal land are generally not tolerated.

With that being said, some laws do not carry over onto tribal land, and Senate Bill 1070 happens to be one of those that does not apply to reservations due to the stipulations established under the laws defining tribal sovereignty.

The Tohono O'Odam Nation, whose reservation borders the US-Mexico border, denounced SB 1070 by submitting a brief called an "amicus curiae", which specifically seeks to point out that the courts' decision which could possibly affect them negatively.

According to the Supreme Court of the United States, Rule 37 is stated as follows;

"An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the Court relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties may be of considerable help to the Court."

Further illustrating the violations of the rights of self-government on the jurisdictions of territories in Indian country.

Also at this "meeting of leaders" was Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski, in which he stated,

“This is not a racial issue, it is a human issue. It affects every citizen in the state of Arizona. How are we going to enforce this law and go after the true criminals?”-Navajo-Hopi Observer

Prompting another good question, "How are other areas going to suffer as a result of resources being allocated to deal with educating tribal communities?" The Arizona state budget has forced the government to cut many city jobs, even to fire and police departments.

The Arizona Republic reports,

"Phoenix's budget troubles came into sharper focus Thursday as City Manager David Cavazos proposed shutting down senior centers, libraries and sports complexes, and laying off hundreds of police officers and firefighters for the first time in decades."
-Scott Wong

But, the First Nation people of Arizona already have a much harder struggle ahead in preparing for, and dealing with, the economic state of affairs on American Indian reservations.

So, a number of Indian governments and organizations decided to declare their opposition to SB 1070 through a resolution. This group included; the Navajo National Council, individual tribes throughout Arizona, the National Congress of American Indians, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, and the Native American State Legislators Caucus.

On June 4, the tribal council’s 20 members unanimously approved a separate resolution against 1070. The National Congress of American Indians
Resolution #RAP-10-014
, will be presented at its mid-year meeting, then it will be brought in front of congress, prompting a resolution opposing the bill.

When Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. presented the resolution to the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, and made the following statement,

“Although Native Americans have been present in what is now Arizona since time immemorial, many tribal members speak English as a second language, do not speak English, or were not issued birth certificates and lack documentation establishing their citizenship and lawful residence in the United States, and S.B. 1070 therefore will expose Arizona tribal members to arrest if they are suspected of being illegal aliens and cannot document their citizenship or lawful presence in the United States.”-Indian Country Today

Personally, I do not carry my tribal ID card or my drivers license every time I step outside of my house to check the mail or while I am going out for a jog. I really don't feel like I should even have to contemplate that sort of thing. According to the stipulations of the law, I guess I will have to factor that into my daily lifestyle. While arguments for sacrificing some civil rights to ensure homeland security might seem appealing from one point of view. This bill seems pointlessly burdensome from the perspective of the people on the Tohono O'odham reservation, when they are already caught in the crossfire of an ongoing drug war. The tribe shares 75 miles of its' border with Mexico, placing them smack dab in the middle of Mexican drug and people smuggling operations en route to America. There are already accounts springing up with tribal members being subjected to seemingly unwarranted violence, as reported by Tucson Weekly,

"tribal members out in the desert chopping wood have been handcuffed and beaten because they didn't have any identification on them,"-Mari Herreras

A person can only wonder how this will impact the younger generations growing up under such mentalities.