Letter: The Tohono O’odham Reservation and National Security

The San Diego Union’s Sunday, October 22, 2006, front-page report on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s “suffering” caused by the possible construction of a triple fence along their part of the U.S. / Mexico border spun a “new reality” far beyond anything even Karl Rove might attempt.

The silliest caption was: “‘We didn’t ask for this,‘ tribal chairwoman says.”

The facts are that the Tohono O’odham nation sent Ms. Ned Norris to the United States Senate hearings on border security and that she stated categorically that the Tohono O’odham Nation was in favor of exactly what the San Diego Union says they do not want – border security.

Ms. Norris stated in her sworn testimony that the Indian Nation’s border with Mexico “has created an unprecedented homeland security crisis for America.” Ms. Norris went on to say that the Nation faces a “modern-day border security crisis that has caused shocking devastation of our land and resources.” Further, she said: “This has created urgent challenges to protect against possible terrorists coming through a very vulnerable location on our Reservation,” and that this “crisis is indeed devastating to our members, our lands, our culture, and precious resources.”

About 2,000 illegal aliens pass northward through the Nation each day. Only about 30,000 are apprehended on these lands each year. Nearly 100 tons of narcotics were seized on the Reservation in one recent year alone (180,000 pounds in 2003).

In one recent year alone, over 4,300 vehicles were seized for their use in smuggling of illegals and or drugs.

In one recent year, another 2,675 vehicles were abandoned on the Reservation.

The situation became so bad — in 1972 — that the Nation formed its own counter-narcotics police force called the Shadow Wolves. This group operated autonomously for years and then was brought under the control of the United States Border Patrol. Their operation under DHS control has been a catastrophe – as has most Border Patrol operations. These brave men of the Shadow Wolves have even given their lives to protect their Nation and the USA. For example Shadow Wolf Agent Glen Miles was murdered by drug smugglers a full mile inside the US. The murderers were tracked back into Mexico.

The San Diego Union article stated that any new barrier construction “would divide an American Indian tribe whose people were on this land for millenniums before the birth of Christ.”

The sworn testimony to the Senate of the United States by the Nation’s official representative to the senate hearing stated: “the 75 miles of international border that stretches along our Reservation is protected by a three-strand barbwire fence, at least in places where the fence is still standing. The fence is down in most places, cut down by the perpetual stream of illegal [border] crossers.”

She went on to say that thanks to the Nation’s lack of border protection “the ever-increasing influx of undocumented migrants and narcotics crossing through our Reservation renders the region an extremely difficult and dangerous area to secure.”

Some odd “’Kum Ba Yah’ we are all suffering” story on the front page of the San Diego Union Sunday Edition might sell newspapers but it was not based in fact and was detrimental to our national security.

Robert Beken, San Diego