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Native American tribes say they won’t enforce immigration law

As the July 29 enforcement date for Arizona’s strict new immigration law nears, Native American tribes are charging that the law was written without considering their unique circumstance and that it will violate their sovereignty and their members’ civil rights.

Despite a request by Gov. Jan Brewer’s office to comply with the new law, Native American tribes will continue to oppose it and seek ways to avoid its implementation, said John Lewis, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which represents 20 tribes in the state.

“Tribes have jurisdiction within their land, and state law doesn’t apply,” Lewis said. “And the law just doesn’t work in the interests of the American Indian population.”

A resolution passed by the tribal council on June 4 states that the new law would lead to disproportionate stops and detentions for tribal members, violate their sovereignty and negatively impact the tribal economy.

In their resolution, the group says long-accepted standards of tribal life would suddenly be incongruous with the new law.

Enforcement of the law would force many law officers to reach the “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status for a large portion of Native Americans, whose legal presence within the U.S. has never been in question, the resolution states.

The resolution points out that English is a second language for many tribal members. And although each tribe has different laws, members of the tribes have not been required to carry their tribal membership documents, and some don’t possess a birth certificate or proper documents.

Navajo Nation Councilman Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr. said Arizona’s new law violates the civil rights of members of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. He said tribal members will be disproportionately targeted because some police might conclude that they are Hispanic.

“In a way, the immigration bill is an attempt to harass Native Americans,” Begay said. “When we are pulled over or stopped we are usually pulled over and asked for our IDs. Sometimes we do not carry those things, and perhaps at that time we will have difficulty proving we are Native American.”

Begay said the new immigration law does nothing positive for Native Americans. He hypothetically asked what non-Native Americans would think of a bill they perceived as targeting them for their ethnic appearance.

“What if we had a law that said whenever a white person is traveling through the Navajo Reservation, we have reasonable suspicion that they’re carrying drugs? Where would the outcry on that be?” Begay asked. “We were here before anyone else, before any white people, and now we’re going to be questioned about being here legally?”

Brewer’s office sent a letter May 24 to the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs, asking the commission to cooperate with the state board that offers guidelines to law-enforcement agencies about how to enforce the new immigration law.

Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Brewer, said tribal leaders have been misled when it comes to some of the main points and details of the new law. He said protections against racial profiling were included in the new law specifically to address the concerns that the Inter Tribal Council has raised.

“The resolution appears to be premised on some wrong information about the bill,” Senseman said. “It’s abundantly clear throughout the law that race cannot be used to determine reasonable suspicion.”

Because Native American tribes have sovereign governments, the interplay between state law enforcement and tribal law enforcement relies upon specific agreements between the tribes and other law enforcement agencies, said Larry Scarber, a tribal liaison for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Several tribes maintain relationships that allow local, state or federal law enforcement agencies to cooperate with the tribal police, and work within the reservations. Each tribe has a different agreement with the agencies they cooperate with, Scarber said.

On some reservations, non-tribal police are called only in emergencies. On others, non-tribal police work, communicate and cooperate regularly with tribal law enforcement, Scarber said.

“There are so many variables,” he said. “With some of the tribes, our officers are able to enforce state laws on tribal lands, but the tribes are so different, and the way they choose to exercise their sovereign rights is always different.”

Scarber of DPS said if Arizona’s new immigration law is opposed by the tribes, the law would apply only to non-tribal members on the reservation, or to tribal members when they leave the reservation. He said his agents will apply the law in accordance with the agreements they have with the tribes, and that many of the procedures will have to be developed as the new law goes into effect.

Brewer tasked the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training (AZPOST) board with developing the law enforcement training and procedural guidelines for the immigration law by the end of June.

Lyle Mann, the group’s executive director, said the concerns raised by tribes in Arizona came too late in the development of the training materials and will not be addressed specifically.

“The guidance will be: Go talk to your tribe and decide what you want to do,” he said.

The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona plans to meet with the National Congress of American Indians next week to agree on unified opposition to the new law and explore ways to prevent its implementation on tribal lands, Lewis, director of the council, said.


  1. SB 1070 promises to enlarge the gulf between diverse communities and pit groups against one another, rather than encouraging people to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions to challenging issues. New Arizona Immigration Law Tests Definitions of Freedom in the US.
    Is it possible to find way out of the situation created? show the world what you think at

  2. I, for one, am an enrolled native that supports the new law. I would love to see it become a National law. We NEED to do something about the number of illegal’s within and entering the US. Actually, the question is what occurs when an illegal is found? If the answer is nothing, like it is in many places, then what’s the use?

  3. I’m happy to heard a native supporting the new law thank you steve it is brave of you to say this, I am also a federally recognized indian and who also support the LAW, we need to protect our borders.

  4. I am a native who is against this law. It discriminates and stinks of racial profiling. The boarders are the safest area’s of the entire United States, source FBI Report 2010.

    Although I am all for Legal Reform of the Immigration Laws, when it is reformed within the structure of Indigenous Rights and International Law. A large percentage of Mexicans are descendants of native blood, they are Indigenous.

    Protect the boarders with the understanding of what Indigenous Rights represents for the bloodlines of Turtle Island.

    Maliseet First Nation.

  5. There is no need to be sneaking in the back door. The front door should be the the way. no matter if you’re black, blue, red, green, yellow or white. Rules are made to be followed to keep an orderly conduct. And yet some people are not following the rules by using the front door. That’s what this is all about.

  6. I utterly oppose SB 1070!!! I can understand AZ’s frustration, however when you pass other bills such as English only, regulating accents, taking away tribal sovereignty rights, limiting ethnic studies (history/cultural) and possibly not giving citizenship to kids of illegal immigrants carries a racist tone. Many non-natives became citizens of illegal immigrants who were born here. Perhaps Jan’s family? SB 1070 is clearly not the solution. For people supporting this bill are confused about its true intentions and underlying meaning of the bill! AZ is going to keep taking away rights of minorities following this bill.

  7. SB1070 what about the illegal anglo people from foreign countries, like Canada, England, Austrialia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, besides the illegal people from South of the Border?

  8. The Indians have a right to argue about the New Law SB1070. And there are many other people that may be concerned. However, Mrs. Jan Brewer is a one track minded individual that will not listen. She has in her mind that this law will be functional for the good of the Arizona State. Many of her followers believe she is in the right track, they believe the law will succeed. The idea is spreading all over the United States. Pass the law in the whole country, and all the USA citizens will be happy. The illegal immigrants will be sent to their country origin, Mrs. Jan Brewer will become a hero in The Arizona State. This senario would be perfect, no more illegal immigrants, no more crime, the USA would be a perfect place to live. One question, \Would not this type of senario attract more people of coming to the United States?\ Seeing that a law as the SB1070 was good and functional, people would enter this country in a wink of an eye. But sorry folks, it will not work. Too many obstacle are in the blind path. Some of our leaders see them, but are ignored for political reasons. The Federal Government has the right to put in order the constitutional laws, regardless of their past mistakes. Nobody is aloud to surpass such law in the United States, not even Mrs. Jan Brewer. Sorry for this comment, it’s my opinion

  9. Manuel Barrera, PhD

    Long Live the Navajo Nation! We must maintain the strong connection between indigenous peoples of the Americas and the indigenous roots of the Mejicano/Chicano/Latino people of the Americas. The victims of war and plunder on native lands and culture will unite and support each others’ struggles for dignity and civil rights. I am from Texas and live in Minnesota. I have witnessed the racist hatred of privileged landowners–the heirs of White settler thieves who stole Indian and Meztizo lands–in South Texas and I have learned of the devastation and theft of Indian peoples of the Northern Anishinabe, Lakota, and Dakota. In Minnesota, an SB 1070 clone is being proposed in the State legislature (FB 3830, I can only hope that Native peoples of the northern states will follow your example and oppose this racist campaign. I know that Latinos in Arizona are deeply appreciative of Navajo solidarity with their struggle for human and civil rights.
    Repeal SB 1070
    Solidarity with and Self-Determination for the Navajo Nation

  10. Immigration should be dealt with at the federal level, not at the state level. If you want illegal immigrants to not enter the country – maybe you should be protesting at all the businesses that actively recruit and hire illegal immigrants so they can have a cheap source of labor!!

  11. I am a Native person and I sooo agree with this law. We are being inundated by Illegal’s that it’s not funny anymore. Seriously though, it’s happening every where! By so many other people too. It’s not just a target on illegal Mexican’s. We have ILLEGAL: Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese and a whole lot of other people running the borders.
    As far as the implications on Tribal sovereignty, I believe that it’s up to each Tribal government to opt in or out.
    I’m sitting here thinking about the here and now. Our Native languages do not sound like “Spanish” so when a cop pulls someone over, it should be quite clear, and self-evident that the person is, or is not from Mexico. The same holds true to the illegal Chinese person or other illegals.
    We can no longer accept these people. Charge them, photograph them and send them back. Keep an up to date database accessible by all law enforcement.
    Forgot to mention one other aspect, there are also a number of Hispanics that have the characteristics of being Caucasian. The tell tale sign is the thick Spanish accent.

  12. Just like everyone else who thinks the bill is racist, Kee Allen Begay needs to actually read the bill.

    He said tribal members will be disproportionately targeted because some police might conclude that they are Hispanic. THE LAW PROHIBITS RACISM! Someone can only be asked for identification if they are 1) already breaking the law AND if there is reasonable suspicion they are here illegally, of which RACE CANNOT BE USED. Great comment Kee Allen Begay. You’re well informed. Glad we have such great leaders for our people.

  13. If We support this Bill then it will be Mexicans/ Hispanics targeted, especially those who are Darker and Physically more Indian, not those who could pass for white. Lets not be Naive. Wake up People, Its continuing racism all over again. “Manifest Destiny” Does it Ring a Bell! Call it what you will….. it began Nearly 500 yrs ago with our ancestors, and laws like these prove that it continues to this very day with the disguise of “Protecting our Borders. Be strong and stand for those who may be unfairly targeted by these Racist Laws. Dont play into the Politics and fall for the Trap it’s them against Us!!!! Knowledge is Power!

  14. It seems like the Hispanics are trying to ride in on the coat-tails of Indians and Blacks. I hope everyone else can see that. I have been on other boards where Hispanics pretend that they relate to black suffrage in order to form some kind of camaraderie between them where non exist just to further their personal cause. Now, they are doing the same with American Indians. Just look at Manuel Barrera, PhD’s post right here as a prime example. And I quote Mr. Barrera, “Long Live the Navajo Nation! We must maintain the strong connection between indigenous peoples of the Americas and the indigenous roots of the Mejicano/Chicano/Latino people of the Americas. The victims of war and plunder on native lands and culture will unite and support each others’ struggles for dignity and civil rights.” Mr. Barrera, are you a Hispanic or American Indian? You are one or the other. And if you are a Hispanic (Barrera sounds Hispanic to me), then you are also of white descent because Spaniards originate from Europe! So drop the act!

  15. Most Mexicans who immigrate illegally into the US are indigenous and come from highly indigenous regions of Mexico, like Chimalapas, Oaxaca. Those who come from Guatemala are virtually all indigenous (Mayans). Many of these people are part of the underclass of their respective countries, simply because of their shared heritage; their indigenous heritage. Many exclusively speak the languages of Nahuatl, Mixtec, Huastec, and Xinca, to name a few. Indigenous peoples of the Americas should have little imperative to honor the white man’s laws since the white man has shown no respect for their own laws. Did Andrew Jackson honor the Supreme Court ruling that protected the sovereignty of Cherokee Nation from Georgia? NO! The indigenous peoples of the Americas have been systematically cheated and robbed of their homelands, and killed, imprisoned and marginalized in the process. The chickens have come home to roost with the economic extermination of our brothers and sister from the south… but when it’s convenient for the whites to claim the rule of law, they do so with so with little or no recollection of their own history, and give no perch on which contrition may sit. SB1070 is yet a novel way to profile people based on skin color and language and yet another assault on the indigenous people of the Americas.

  16. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)


  17. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)

    Many of the people who are here from Mexico are full-blooded Native American Indians. And most of the Native people from Mexico here do not speak Spanish nor English. They only speak their Native languages and are aware that the U.S.A. is part of their land.

    Today, Native people here from Mexico are called “Mexican”, “Hispanics” and “immigrants.” It is unfair to put labels on full-blooded American Indians.

    We can prove in federal court that Mexicans are Native American Indians. Some Mexicans from Mexico and the U.S.A. are Aztecs, Mexica, Pima, Yaqui, Mixteca, Zapotec, Ute, Hopi, Comanche, Shoshone, Paiute, Cora, and from many other Native American Indian Nations.
    It will be very hard to keep full-blooded Native people in Mexico, because the Native people will always leave Mexico to the U.S.A. to work and live on their North American Continent. (So when you see a Mexican, you will really see a full-blooded American Indian.)

    By: Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Yaqui-Mexican Native American Indian) Freelance Writer/Researcher/Founder/President of Native Americans of the Americas Committee, Hayward, California

  18. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)

    Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Yaqui-Mexican Native American Indian)

    e-mail:[email protected] (510) 3633052

    We Native people must fight that SB 1070!!!!

  19. I was stopped and searched by Pima county police for minor traffic violation. It was kind of dehumanizing. I am a state employee. The officer didn’t even know the state! Didn’t know where a reservation is! Arizona is going backwards. Just because your darker your a target in Arizona.

  20. oops, that your should be you’re.

  21. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)


  22. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)




  24. In response to Big Jerry (Comment #19)…

    Your perspective of the Mexican migrants is very simplistic. For one, while you’re right that many Mexican are mestizos with white Spanish heritage, many American Indians in the United States have mixed ancestry as well. Just as a good number of Mexicans may have visible European features, so do many American Indians north of the border. Additionally, a good third of the Mexican population is estimated to be almost pure indigenous with hardly any Caucasian admixture. Numerically speaking, there’s a lot more of them than there are American Indians in the entire United States, including both full and mixed blood populations.

    As far as languages and accents go, Mexicans do not speak with “Spanish” accents. As recently as 1820, up to 60% of the Mexican population still spoke an indigenous language. Their descendants, forced to give up their ancestral tongues, speak dialects of Spanish that are heavily peppered with indigenous vocabulary and speech patterns. A large number of Mexican migrants today don’t speak any Spanish at all, coming from the impoverished indigenous ethnic groups such as the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Maya. It might be easy for a police officer to recognize the sound of Spanish, but can the average, untrained English-speaker really tell the difference between any number of American Indian languages that he or she is not very familiar with?

    There are many more Maya among the Guatemalan and Honduran migrant populations, too.

  25. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)

    The Chinese people arrived in the present-day Americas in 2640 B.C. At that time, our Indigenous ancestors were already here for thousands of years. Many/Some American Indians are part Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and some American Indians of the Americas are full-blooded Chinese/Asians. And we can prove in federal court and in the World court that the Chinese have been here since 2640 B.C. A Chinese temple unearthed in Sonora, Mexico in 1900, and the Mexican/U.S.A. governments have all the information about the Chinese being here for thousands of years. In my family, we have some Chinese/Japanese blood. Now. we Native Americans of the Americans need to rewrite our history. At that time, 4000 years ago, the name of present-day Americas was named Fu Sang.

    By: Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec/Yaqui/Chinese Native American Indian)

    Sources:Dr. Siu-Leung Lee, PhD, Chinese Community and many other sources,

  26. Henry Guzman Villalobos(Aztec-Mexican-Yaqui Native American)

    The name Guzman is German/Jew! Many people think that Guzman is Spanish.

    Thank you all for your time.


  27. Native tribes have bad immigration policies…, jus sayin…

  28. Tribes must still comply with federal laws regarding immigration. Plus, as Native American, I think that Begay is stretching it a bit. I could encourage AZ’s Natives to carry their driver’s license when they drive! We all have to. Begay, quit trying to be so damn politically correct. Illegal immigrants have taken jobs away from my own family members. They work cheap, and don’t complain about conditions.

  29. It seems hypocritical. The Black Indian is already here yet they are CLEARLY shunned in our land, its no different than what the Cherokee has done to them. IF this open arm approach is about BLOOD and roots as people say, explain why isn’t anyone supporting and pulling in the Black Indians in our land. Racism seems to be as strong as it ever in America.

  30. I don’t think there should be strict immigration laws separating the US from the rest of the Americas. The Europeans were merely seeking a better life in America, fleeing from religious persecution. They’re really no different than any other immigrants wanting to come to America today. And yet we didn’t subject Europeans to strict immigration controls. So why apply strict immigration controls to native born Americans throughout the Americas?

  31. First off im sorry but all us who claim full blooded indigeounouse are not our people were raped or intermarried even if its a mexican jew mix still makes you indigiounouse and just because our people got some european in us doesent make us”white” whdn we clearly are not treated like a white look up full blooded aztec there all gone my fatha is from hidalgo a heavily indigiounouse small town located in the isolated mountains and everyone is mestizo they can grow beards todo but the fact that we have to stop in our tracks and except racism and not argue just because being ridiculed by an angry white saying”oh your descended from europeans!”is just preposterous no thats wrong we are people that were raped and enslaved for,listen now,GENERATIONS!multiple generations of our beautifull women were raped and there sons were enslaved while their daughters were literally born to be tooken by a spaniard this is the gritty truth about our people we are 2 yes but our race is one just like the native north americans who have went through countless trials as a people and also were victimized the lightest native to the darkest are still native we go by our indigionous roots because that is what we are we are not white nor will we ever be so tlludwig next time you think about uttering such a stupid and ignorant comment outta that fucked up little mind of yours remember this is our land not yours so shut your punk *** up and go suck a ****

  32. Indigenous Misteso

    I know this thread is old, but I just wanted to say that we, mistezo’s, are indigenous and have roots all the way back to the Aztec, Mayan indigenous people. Even tribes from the US have those same roots. So what makes us so different than any other tribe? The fact that we know spanish? That’s not our fault. We were all nearly wiped out to extinction worse than any other race out there. We must forget our differences and learn to become one again. We are huge now and even though we are considered mistezos, Mexicans, Hispanics, or even the latest “Latinos” our hearts still cry out to our indigenous blood.

  33. indigineous meztizo made a very true comment, but the sad truth is, Native AMERICAN Indians,(federally recognized tribes) DONT recognize us as legitimate either. they are too engulfed in what the government says they are according to the GOVERNMENTS official WORD. NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS, were CREATED by the US government, therefore, like their MAKER, they FOLLOW in their steps and laws. HYPOCRITES! LIARS! WHIPPED DOGS!

  34. Divide and conquer…. History is our best education…Let not the white man make you believe we are not all Native Blood Brothers

  35. I just want to say that I am a Native American and I don’t think the Indians should be in the category of immigrants because they have been here a lot longer then I’m white Americans have also I am African I am Russian I am Poland and I had others does that make me an immigrant I say leave the Native American people alone that’s what I say

  36. Patricia J Tawney

    First my Pop was stopped in California many years ago now and asked for his Green card. He is enrolled Pueblo Isleta. I recently ran into a man, while at the dentist, who looked so much like him I was amazed, turns out he was from Ecuador. He was with his elderly mother who did not speak Spanish.
    As for knowing who is who by their language, you should know that my Great-grandfather Pablo Abeita, the great old man of Isleta spoke our native language, and Spanish, and English and several other native languages.

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