U.S. may help O'odham with security

(Note from RT: Why are they helping the Indians and not the rest of the 2,000 miles of border?)
February 18, 2004
By Gabriela Rico [email protected]
Tucson Citizen
P.O. Box 26767
Tucson, AZ 85726-6767
Fax: 520-573-4569
To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]

Sells, Arizona - If Tucson went through what the Tohono O'odham Nation experiences every day as a result of illegal immigration, someone would declare a state of emergency, according to a tribal report.

The federal government yesterday took the first step toward acknowledging the problem. It announced that a $1.4 million request has been made to Congress to fund border security measures carried out by the tribe.

According to the nation, in the past three years the number of illegal immigrants caught by O'odham police has increased eightfold and the seizure of narcotics increased 148 percent.

"Few can imagine what it is like to have a constant stream of lost and suffering border crossers passing by your home on a daily basis," the report said. "Oftentimes, homes are broken into by those desperate for food, water and shelter. If this were happening in Tucson, or any other metropolis, a state of emergency would be declared."

The nation's chairwoman said she was pleased about the proposed funds but that they aren't enough.

"It's a formal recognition that we do have a problem, and we are grateful for that," said Vivian Juan-Saunders, chairwoman of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

But the tribe is not always told when officials in Washington build up or scale down enforcement operations that affect it.

"We are requesting a seat at the table," Juan-Saunders said.

More than 1,500 illegal immigrants enter the United States every day through the 75 miles of international border that run through O'odham land, costing the nation $5 million annually in law enforcement and health care, the chairwoman said.

Aurene Martin, principal deputy assistant secretary of [the Bureau of] Indian Affairs for the Department of Interior, the agency that made the financial request, said the proposed allocation is a 70 percent increase in funding for the Tohono O'odham Nation.

If the request is approved by Congress, the nation could get the money as early as October 1, she said.

Martin described her first tour of the international border as "striking."

"Until you see that, you just have no idea of the magnitude of what's happening here," she said.

Copyright 2004, Tucson Citizen.