Native American Tribes Say They Won't Enforce Immigration Law
Evan Wyloge, 2010http://indigenouspeoplesissues.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5633%3Anative-american-tribes-say-they-wont-enforce-immigration-law&catid=52%3Anorth-america-indigenous-peoples&Itemid=74+
As the July 29 enforcement date for Arizona’s strict new immigration law nears, Native American tribes are charging that the law was written without considering their unique circumstance and that it will violate their sovereignty and their members’ civil rights.
Despite a request by Gov. Jan Brewer’s office to comply with the new law, Native American tribes will continue to oppose it and seek ways to avoid its implementation, said John Lewis, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which represents 20 tribes in the state.
“Tribes have jurisdiction within their land, and state law doesn’t apply,” Lewis said. “And the law just doesn’t work in the interests of the American Indian population.”
A resolution passed by the tribal council on June 4 states that the new law would lead to disproportionate stops and detentions for tribal members, violate their sovereignty and negatively impact the tribal economy.
In their resolution, the group says long-accepted standards of tribal life would suddenly be incongruous with the new law.
Enforcement of the law would force many law officers to reach the “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status for a large portion of Native Americans, whose legal presence within the U.S. has never been in question, the resolution states.
The resolution points out that English is a second language for many tribal members. And although each tribe has different laws, members of the tribes have not been required to carry their tribal membership documents, and some don’t possess a birth certificate or proper documents.
Navajo Nation Councilman Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. said Arizona’s new law violates the civil rights of members of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. He said tribal members will be disproportionately targeted because some police might conclude that they are Hispanic.
“In a way, the immigration bill is an attempt to harass Native Americans,” Begay said. “When we are pulled over or stopped we are usually pulled over and asked for our IDs. Sometimes we do not carry those things, and perhaps at that time we will have difficulty proving we are Native American.”