Arizona Law Draws Widespread Indigenous Opposition
Subject: FW: Arizona law draws widespread indigenous opposition
Indian Country Today - May 3, 2010
PHOENIX - A controversial new state anti-immigration law has many American
Indians alarmed that tribal sovereignty has been violated, with the looming
possibility that individual liberties will be threatened.
The law, S.B. 1070, makes it a crime to be in Arizona illegally, and it
requires police to check suspects for residency paperwork. It also bans
people from soliciting work or hiring day laborers off the street.
The state's legislature passed the bill in late-April, with Republican Gov.
Jan Brewer signing it into law shortly thereafter.
Republican supporters have argued that the measure is necessary to protect
the nation's borders by reducing illegal immigrants and the burden they
place on taxpayers. Some believe that drug cartels and crime will also be
Those ideas have been widely controversial, with many progressive groups,
Hispanics, and the Obama administration protesting the law. The main
questions center on what factors police will use to decide if a person
should be required to show paperwork.
Racial profiling is a top concern, and lawsuits to challenge the law's
legality are certain.
As the debate has progressed, Native American perspectives have also quickly
become part of the mix. Many observers have noted that it was the indigenous
people of North America who welcomed European immigrants to the continent
hundreds of years ago.
The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona has been one of those leading the
charge, sending a letter that urged the legislature and governor not to pass
"We have a range of concerns, including tribal sovereign nations not being
recognized as able to define and protect their own borders as they see fit,
and the possibility that tribal citizens will be profiled by police," said
John Lewis, director of the organization.
Lewis and other ITCA staffers traveled to Washington after the law passed to
educate national policy makers about their concerns. Various Native American
groups are calling on tribes and Indians to oppose the measure, hopefully to
get it repealed.
"This impacts all indigenous people, and the lawmakers need to know it,"
Lewis said. "America's boundaries are not tribal boundaries."
Lewis noted that some tribes, including the Tohono O'odham Nation and the
Pascua Yaqui Tribe, are on and near the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Our tribes have much interaction with Mexico, through culture and life, and
I'm not sure people realize that there's an economic impact involved as
Lewis and others believe that American Indians are likely to be unfairly
targeted, based on their appearance and travel patterns. The American Civil
Liberties Union has expressed similar concerns, and has vowed to monitor
that aspect of the law.
"Even if they are just stopped for five minutes, that is five minutes too
many if the rights of people have been infringed," Lewis said.
Ian Record, an education manager with theNative Nations Institute, said he
is concerned that he could be targeted, since his truck has a "Latinos for
Obama" sticker on it.
"It's scary that something like that could be a factor in you getting pulled
over. My wife is Latina. We shouldn't be afraid of that."'
Record noted that citizens of the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Pascua Yaqui
Tribe have been strongly rallying against the law.
"It complicates things for tribal citizens, especially of those nations. It
has to be greatly concerning to everyone that law-abiding citizens of those
nations are likely to be pulled over," Record said.
"The tribe's sovereignty and the tribal citizens' rights are obviously being
Robert Warrior, the Osage president of theNative American and Indigenous
Studies Association, echoed those issues in a letter to the governor April
"Your action as chief executive of the state of Arizona will, when the law
takes effect, give license to abuse by police and citizens, making ever more
murky the possibility of working towards a just future for all people in the
Americas," wrote Warrior, director of American Indian Studies at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"S.B. 1070 will have tremendous negative impact on indigenous people on both
sides of the border between the United States and Mexico, and it ought to go
without saying that some of the people most impacted by this invidious law
are descended from peoples who lived in the Sonoran Desert centuries before
anyone even thought of the United States. Regardless of proximity or
descent, though, the new law is morally wrong and panders to the worst
currents in U.S. politics."
Warrior said in an interview that the regulation seems to be "myopic by
design," since it seeks to take complex realities and make them seem simple.
"Given that many thousands of indigenous people are from communities that
have straddled the U.S.-Mexico border since long before that border came to
be, I see this law as a tragic reminder of how polluted political culture in
the U.S. has become."
Warrior said tribal citizens throughout North America should see the
situation "as a call to think about where we are headed as indigenous
peoples whose right to exist predates the borders that now so often keep us
"We need a growing consciousness of what our persistence and presence means
in the hemisphere. For those of us who are U.S. citizens, a law like this
provides an opportunity to oppose the worst currents of U.S. political life
and to stand in solidarity with those whose human rights are violated in the
name of security."