Protest of Senate Bill 750, Would Allow Border Patrol Unregulated Access to Sacred Lands

Protesters gather August 13, 2015, in front of a meeting attended by Senator John McCain to protest Senate Bill 750 and mining at Oak Flat. Photo courtesy of Nellie David.

Link to media coverage here.

Full text of Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act here.

Native advocates protested a meeting today at Tucson Electric Power headquarters where Senator John McCain (R) was meeting.  The protest was largely a response to the passing of a rider on last December’s National Defense Authorization Act that transfered title to sacred lands over to mining companies.  It also passed along another message: No on S.R. 750.

Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake (R) introduced the Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act in March 2015 and it would allow unfettered access to federal lands in Arizona and parts of California.  It was voted out of committee in May, but has yet to make an appearance on the Senate floor.

The bill calls for the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to “provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel with immediate access to Federal lands for border security activities, including routine motorized patrols and the deployment of communications, surveillance, and detection equipment.”

Environmental and tribal advocates are perturbed by what Arizona representatives are suggesting: unfettered entry and occupation of reservations and national parks situated within a hundred miles of the border.

This bill would waive all laws on federal public and tribal lands for 100 miles north of the U.S. Mexico Border, affecting Apache, Tohono O’odham, Hia-Ced sacred sites and the very existence of all tribal people residing on those lands. – Nellie David, Tohono O’odham

McCain believes the border will not be “secure” until 100% of it is being monitored, but analysts are not so sure this is possible:

No state has ever prevented all attempted unauthorized entries into its territory. Roberts et al. (2013) review several historical cases, including East Germany during the Cold War, which experienced mass outmigration in the 1950s and attempted to stop it completely by establishing a “kill zone” on its borders and severely punishing those who were caught and not killed. Even under such an extreme approach, in the late 1970s, 5 percent of those trying to cross succeeded. -Bipartisan Policy Center Feb. 2015 report

Even the Department of Homeland Security has criticized previous bills that purportedly expand the Border Patrol’s powers without providing additional funding.

A community forum will meet August 20, 2015, at 7:30PM at the Alliance for Global Justice at 225 E. 26th St. in Tuscon where panelists include U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who introduced a house bill to repeal the Oak Flat giveaway.

GAO Recommends Intergovernmental Agreements between Dept. of Homeland Security and Border Tribes

Here is the report.

The summary:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is coordinating in a variety of ways with tribes, such as through joint operations and shared facilities and Operation Stonegarden—a DHS grant program intended to enhance coordination among local, tribal, territorial, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in securing United States borders. However, the Border Patrol and tribes face coordination challenges. Officials from five tribes reported information-sharing challenges with the Border Patrol, such as not receiving notification of federal activity on their lands. Border Patrol officials reported challenges navigating tribal rules and decisions. Border Patrol and DHS have existing agreements with some, but not all, tribes to address specific border security issues, such as for the establishment of a law enforcement center on tribal lands. These agreements could serve as models for developing additional agreements between the Border Patrol and other tribes on their specific border security coordination challenges. Written government-to-government agreements could assist Border Patrol and tribal officials with enhancing their coordination, consistent with practices for sustaining effective coordination. DHS established an office to coordinate the components’ tribal outreach efforts, which has taken actions such as monthly teleconferences with DHS tribal liaisons to discuss tribal issues and programs, but does not have a mechanism for monitoring and overseeing outreach efforts, consistent with internal control standards. Such monitoring should be performed continually; ingrained in the agency’s operations; and clearly documented in directives, policies, or manuals to help ensure operations are carried out as intended. Implementing an oversight mechanism could help enhance DHS’s department-wide awareness of and accountability for border security coordination efforts with the tribes while identifying those areas that work well and any needing improvement.