The Tohono O’odham Nation laid out its case against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall in a video Tuesday, arguing the barrier was impractical, unnecessary, and would cause extreme hardship to the tribe’s members.
The six-minute video highlights the success of recent border security efforts while laying out the physical challenges of building a wall and the ramifications of separating tribe members from their traditional lands in Mexico.
The tribe “can not and will not support a fortified border wall,” Chairman Edward D. Manuel said in a statement. “The Nation remains committed to working together to protect the border using proven and successful techniques. We invite the President and his administration to visit the Nation, see these challenges firsthand, and begin a productive dialogue for moving forward."
The video, titled “There is No O’odham Word for Wall,” explains how tribal law enforcement works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies to patrol the reservation. That cooperation, along with the addition of vehicle barriers and other resources, has had a major impact on the flow of illegal immigration through the reservation, the tribe said.
According to the Tohono O'odham Department of Public Safety, there was an 84 percent drop in the number of migrants arrested on the reservation in 2016 compared to 2003. There were 85,000 apprehensions in 2003 compared to 14,000 in 2016.
“There's been tremendous success in interdiction and apprehensions and prosecution of subjects,” the department’s executive director, Richard Saunders, says in the video.
Tohono O’odham police and Border Patrol agents have seized an average of more than 313,000 pounds of drugs per year since 2002, according to the tribe. The Tohono O’odham Nation is currently working with Customs and Border Protection to install 15 surveillance and sensor towers on the reservation to monitor illegal border crossings, part of the Integrated Fixed Towers system, the video says.
“You can throw numbers out and make it look really nice and say, ‘Oh look, the numbers are down on apprehensions,’ but what are the numbers on got-aways?” said Art Del Cueto, president of the Tucson Border Patrol Local Union. “No one has that number.”
Del Cueto, who patrols the reservation in his job with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the wall is an important component in a comprehensive strategy to secure the border.
“I understand it’s their land, but at the same time, we can’t have that as a substitute to go around the security of our country and the security of our nation. Security should come first,” he said.
The reservation stretches along 75 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and members of the tribe live on both sides.
“A wall would totally forbid our members to cross because our members cross the border daily for just basic necessities. We also cross for burials to visit our relatives,” Vice Chairman Verlon Jose says in the video. “It would be a major, major impact to our members.”
Besides the challenges of building a wall through rugged terrain and floodplains, tribal members say the physical barrier could disrupt the movement of animals and do little to staunch the flow of illegal border-crossers.
The wall would be “easily bypassed in remote regions with the same tunnel and ladder tactics that undocumented immigrants already use to overcome barriers even in more populated areas,” the tribe said in a statement accompanying the video.
“A wall built on the border, we believe, is not the answer to securing America,” Jose says in the video.
Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.