Following news that a caravan of Central Americans was headed to the United States and parts of Mexico, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation to bring the National Guard to the border – a clear tactic to intimidate those hoping to seek asylum. And while Trump may hope to make crossing the border more difficult for immigrants, there’s at least 75 miles where the National Guard isn’t welcome. The Tohono O’odham Nation, which lives on both sides of the border, doesn’t approve of this decision.
In a letter by Chairman Edward D. Manuel and Vice Chairman Verlon M. Jose, they assured members of the Tohono O’odham that Border Patrol would not deploy the National Guard on their lands. “As many of you have heard, President Donald Trump recently announced he was moving to deploy National Guard troops along the border to assist Border Patrol with surveillance,” the letter reads. “Some states, such as Arizona, have said they support the National Guard deployment, others have not. Today, I spoke with the Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief Rodolfo Karisch, because of our concern for deployment of the National Guard or any Military personnel on our lands. Sector Chief Karisch has assured the Nation that no National Guard troops will be deployed on the Nation’s lands at this time. He agreed he would be sending to the Nation a letter affirming that the National Guard will not be deployed on the Tohono O’odham Nation.”
On a local radio station, Manuel recently stated that the group wouldn’t welcome the National Guard or military personnel, according to Splinter. The indigenous group has previously spoken out about how a border wall would negatively affect their members’ lives. The militarized border – as well as the steel barrier that runs along the reservation – has already inconvenienced the members’ lives and interfered with its customs. The tribe reports that Border Patrol agents have deported members of the tribe who were “simply traveling through their traditional lands, practicing migratory traditions essential to their religion, economy, and culture.” A border wall would further disrupt their lives. “It’s going to affect our sacred lands,”member Bradley Moreno told The Guardian. “It’s going to affect our ceremonial sites. It’s going to affect the environment. We have wildlife, and they have their own patterns of migration. There are just so many things that are wrong with this. The whole idea behind it is just racist.”
Jose, however, made the most declarative statement in 2016, shortly after Trump won the election. “Over my dead body will a wall be built,” he said. “I don’t wish to die but I do wish to work together with people so we can truly protect the homeland of this place they call the United States of America. Not only for our people but for the American people.”