Tohono O’odham Tribal Leaders Voice Concerns Over Trump’s Border Wall

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Trump’s proposed border wall could spell trouble for tribal landowners, according to NBC News. If the President’s plans go through, tribal communities would be negatively impacted, as the wall would isolate them from vital resources and further upset their normal way of life.

 

The Tohono O’odham Nation is officially recognized by the federal government as a Native American tribe and owns land that borders both countries – the United States of America and Mexico.

 

President Trump’s bill outlines a $1.6 billion undertaking focused on building a 2,000-mile long wall. The Tohono O’odham Nation, situated between Arizona and Mexico, accounts for 62 miles of this range.

 

Most of this perimeter is currently owned by private citizens. Ownership may be null and void, however, thanks to “eminent domain laws”. Under this decree, the land can be purchased by the government and some of the owners have already been notified.

 

One of the contributing factors to the overlapping land ownership on the border is the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 where the United States bought land from Mexico. The move reorganized boundaries and divvied up indigenous lands.

 

One side of the precinct in Mexico is home to a burial site as well as several ceremonial spots. A water supply also falls a few yards over the Mexican line. If the wall is built, property owners who rely on this resource may not have access anymore.

 

Tribal leaders say there is a better way to control the situation. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has two offices in the area, has successfully built a mutually beneficial relationship with community leaders.

 

The longstanding partnership has resulted in the detainment of more than 300,000 lbs. of illegal drugs and an estimated 84% decrease in migrant arrests.

 

Tohono O’odham Nation has cooperated with Border Patrol and is at the helm of setting up more than a dozen security towers, complete with sensors and surveillance technology.

 

The Border Patrol responded to tribal leaders’ claims that they were caught off guard by the proposal by reinstating that the budget would have no impact on Tohono O’odham Nation.

 

Leaders, however, are still apprehensive as the plan could change.

 

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