An American Indian tribe on the southern border says it’s ready to use a Dakota Access Pipeline-style protest to target President Donald Trump’s wall if it doesn’t go through the proper legal and congressional procedures.
Verlon M. Jose, vice chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, told reporters that people in his tribe were prepared to engage the Trump administration if the president eventually begins construction on the wall. The tribe, located in a small section of the border between Arizona and Mexico, is concerned Trump’s wall will trample Tohono O’odham’s tribal lands.
Tohono O’odham’s reservation is a weigh station for many illegal immigrants heading into the country, as well as one of the busiest drug-smuggling corridors connecting Mexico and the U.S.
Demonstrations against the wall could be like those seen targeting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to Jose. All of tribe members are willing to throw themselves in front of construction crews building the wall separating the Mexican side of the tribal land from the U.S. side.
The so-called DAPL, a multi-state oil pipeline in North Dakota opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux, was initially rejected by the Obama administration. It was resurrected after President Donald Trump signed an executive order approving the contentious project. The tribe believes the multi-billion-dollar line would trample tribal lands and poison its water supply.
Trump’s wall has created similar levels of angst among the Tohono O’odham.
“If someone came into your house and built a wall in your living room, tell me how would you [sic] about that?” Jose rhetorically asked in an interview last week.
Building a wall across Tohono’s tribal lands will require an act of Congress, not an executive order, Monte Mills, the co-director of an American Indian legal clinic at the University of Montana, said in an interview. He claimed building the wall without congressional oversight would lead to significant legal ramifications.
Trump signed executive orders in January authorizing the construction of a border wall on the southern border and beefing up the country’s ability to deport criminal illegal aliens.
“A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the U.S. gets back control of its borders,” Trump said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security announcing the memos. He also said the wall will reduce the surge of migrants into Mexico seeking to get to the U.S.
Standing Rock and Tohono O’odham’s opposition to the president’s recent executive orders come as another western American Indian tribe, the Navajo Nation, pleads with the White House for help saving a coal plant on its reservation that is destined for death in a few years.
The president of the tribe said in meetings with Trump that the group opposes the closure of the Navajo Generating Station, one of the largest coal plants in the country.
Russell Begaye, who acts as the tribe’s president, said he has been in continual talks with White House officials since the inauguration about keeping the coal plant open. His tribe opposes the plant’s closure and the nearly 1,000 jobs it provides the Navajo Nation.
“We are going to seek a solution based on what we feel needs to be done,” Mr. Begaye told reporters Thursday. “Tax breaks, subsidies, a real strong verbiage from the White House, from President Trump himself.”
Trump, who made saving Coal Country a crucial part of his presidential campaign, has not made any official decision to prop up the coal plant. Disregarding the Nation’s pleas would continue to hurt his image among tribes in the West.
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