Mid Arizona Border, Tohono O'Odham Nation
Given at a Full Committee Hearing:
Enhancing Border Security
Thursday, June 17 2004 - 9:30 AM - SR- 253
The Testimony of Ned Norris, Jr. Chairwoman, Tohono O'Odham Nation
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE NED NORRIS, JR., VICE-CHAIR OF THE
TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION-ARIZONA BEFORE THE SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE
ON S. 2295 BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE AND TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION ACT
June 17, 2004
Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, I am Ned Norris,
Jr., Vice-Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation in Arizona. On
behalf of the Nation, I am submitting this statement in support
of S.2295. I also request the Committee's favorable consideration
of a proposed amendment to the bill that reflects the unique border
security challenges that derive from the 75-mile stretch of international
border that the Tohono O'odham Reservation shares with Mexico.
Our proposed amendment is attached at the end of this testimony.
We fully support the purposes and
objectives of S.2295 to set forth a comprehensive strategic
framework to improve border security and to more
effectively coordinate law enforcement efforts among the Federal,
State and Tribal Governments who have jurisdiction along America's
international borders. Before addressing the specifics
of our current border security infrastructure and communications
capabilities and vulnerabilities, my statement will provide general
background about the Nation as well as the background and extent
of our current border security crisis.
The Tohono O'odham Nation (â€œNationâ€)
is a federally recognized Indian Tribe in South Central Arizona
with over 28,000 enrolled tribal members. The Tohono O'odham Reservation
consists of four non-contiguous parcels totaling more than 2.8
million acres in the Sonoran Desert, and is the second largest
Indian Reservation in the United States. The largest community,
Sells, is the Nation's capital.
The 75-mile southern border of our Reservation
is the longest shared international border of any Indian Tribe
in the United States. As a federally recognized Indian Tribe,
the Nation possesses sovereign governmental authority over our
members and our territory.
Accordingly, the Nation provides governmental services to one
of the largest Indian populations in America and is responsible
for managing one of the largest Indian reservations in the America.
Moreover, the Nation spends approximately $7 million annually
from tribal revenues to meet the United States' border security
responsibilities. The Nation's longest international border of
any Tribe in the United States has created an unprecedented homeland
security crises for America.
Prior to European contact, the aboriginal lands of the O'odham
extended east to the San Pedro River, West to the Colorado River,
South to the Gulf of California, and North to the Gila River.
In 1848 the United States and Mexico negotiated the terms of theTreaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which among other things, established the
southern boundary of the United States. The Treaty placed the
aboriginal lands of the O'odham in Mexico. In 1854 through the
Gadsden Purchase, the United States and Mexico further defined
the southern boundary by placing the boundary at its present location
cutting into the heart of our aboriginal territory.
Consequently the boundary displaced our people on both sides
of the international border bisecting O'odham lands and separating
our people from relations, cultural sites and ceremonies, and
access to much needed health care, housing, and transportation.
Not surprisingly, neither the United States nor Mexico consulted
with the O'odham during the Treaty negotiations in 1848 and 1854.
Respect for the sovereign status of the O'odham was simply ignored.
Unfortunately, the lack of consultation or input from the O'odham
continued throughout the generations leaving us with a modern-day
border security crisis that has caused shocking devastation of
our land and resources. The genesis of this crisis stems from
the development and implementation of the U.S. government's border
policy in the last decade.
Again, without the benefit of consulting with us,federal border
security policy was developed focusing on closing down what were
considered to be key points of entry along the U.S. southern border.
This policy was implemented by extensively increasing manpower
and resources at ports of entry and located at popular entry points
such as San Diego (CA), Yuma (AZ), and El Paso (TX). Rather than
preventing illegal immigration into America, this policy created
a funnel effect causing the flow of undocumented immigrants, drug
traffickers, and other illegal activity to shift to other less
regulated spots on the border.
Consequently, because of the lack of border
security resources and attention to the Nation, illegal
immigration through our Reservation has become a prime avenue
of choice for undocumented immigrants and drug trafficking activities
traveling into the United States. This has created urgent
challenges to protect against possible terrorists coming through
a very vulnerable location on our Reservation.
Although the Nation has neither the sufficient manpower nor the
resources to adequately address this crisis, we continue to be
the first line of defense in protecting America's homeland security
interests in this highly volatile and dangerous region.
III. BORDER SECURITY CRISIS ON THE TOHONO
The modern day consequences of the border
security crisis facing the Nation is indeed devastating to our
members, our lands, our culture and precious resources. While
illegal immigrant and drug trafficking have decreased on other
parts of the southern border of the United States, levels
have sky-rocketed on the Nation causing a flood
of crime, chaos and environmental destruction on our Reservation.
Currently, it has been conservatively estimated
that over 1,500 immigrants illegally cross daily into the United
States via our Reservation. A Border Patrol spokesman recently
reported that the Nation is in the busiest corridor of illegal
immigration in the[America]. Tribal members live in fear for the
safety of their families and their properties. Often times, homes
are broken into by those desperate for food, water and shelter.
The Nation's seventy-one member police force provides primary
border security law enforcement services against the unrelenting
and ncreasing traffic of undocumented immigrants and drug traffickers
who cross our border to enter America. The Nation has sustained
a loss of millions of dollars annually in manpower, health care,
sanitation, theft and destruction of our property and lands from
the relentless flow of illegal immigration. Equally devastating
is the adverse impact on our cultural resources and traditions
as our Tribal elders no longer gather
ceremonial plants in the desert for fear of their safety.
The Nation stands on the front line of this crisis without receiving
any funding from the Department of Homeland Security although
the 75 mile international border along the Reservation's boundary
is one of the busiest illegal entry points in the country according
to a recent Los Angeles Times report.
Indeed, the statistics are staggering: In
2004 alone, 27,130 undocumented immigrants have been detained
and arrested crossing the border on our Reservation. Since October
2003, approximately 180,000 pounds of narcotics have been seized.
There are 160 known illegal border crossing
sites along the 75 mile shared border with Mexico in 36 locations,
there are no barriers at all. In 2003, sixty-nine people
died on our Reservation crossing the border leaving the Nation
to pay for the burial and related costs. The Nation pays for autopsy
costs at $1,400.00 per body out of tribal police funds. The Nation
loses approximately $2 million annually from our allocation of
Indian Health Care funding due to emergency health care treatment
of undocumented immigrants taken to our health clinic. The Nation
is forced to address the 6 tons of trash a day that is littered
on our Reservation by fleeing undocumented immigrants.
This predicament has caused serious environmental problems and
contributes to the 113 open pit dumps on our Reservation that
need to be cleaned up. Moreover, the Tohono O'odham Nation Police
Department (TONPD) has stretched its resources to the limit and
now spends $3 million of its tribal resources annually in response
to border related incidents. To date, the Nation has expended
$7 millions dollars in tribal resources on Homeland security issues,
which is clearly a federal responsibility.
For example: On an average day, every public safety officer in
the TONPD spends 60% of his or her time working on border related
issues. In 1999, our Tribal Officers assisted the border patrol
with 100 undocumented immigrant apprehensions per month. In 2002,
our Tribal Officers recorded 6,000 undocumented immigrants detained
pending U.S. Border patrol pick up.
In 2002 and 2003, 1,500 undocumented immigrants
crossed our tribal lands each day. Illegal narcotics seizures
have more than doubled in the last 3 years to over 65,000 lbs.
in 2002. It is no longer just Mexican nationals crossing our reservation
land. Over the last year, undocumented immigrants from Guatemala,
Honduras, and Central America have been apprehended on our Nation.
In 2002, 4,300 vehicles were used for illegal
drug and immigrant smuggling. A total of 517 stolen vehicles were
recovered on tribal land. From January 2003 to today, 2,675 abandoned
vehicles were found on the reservation with 308 stolen vehicles
used for criminal activities en route to Mexico. These
vehicles were stolen in Tucson, Phoenix, and Chandler etc and
used for illegal activity. Since January 2003, 48 undocumented
immigrant deaths from heat and exposure were investigated by Tribal
Police. A total number of 7 staff members are in the criminal
investigations unit. The Tribal Police pay for autopsy costs at
$1,400.00 per body out of tribal police funds. In 2003, Tribal
police investigated 10 vehicle crashes involving undocumented
In FY 2002-2003, the U.S. Border Patrol-Casa
Grande Sector apprehended 55,514 undocumented immigrants on our
lands. Many other areas on the Nation, such as our limited
hospital and ambulance services have been similarly negatively
affected. Overall, it is estimated that the Nation expends $7
million of its tribal resources annually on services directly
relating to border issues. Part of the expenditure relates to
health care and environmental clean up services. When the Nation
pays for federal responsibilities, we are unable to address much
needed education, health care, housing, roads, infrastructure
issues, to name a few. Below are a couple of key examples. In
2003, the Indian Health Service (IHS)-Sells Service Unit spent
$500,000.00 on emergency health care services to undocumented
immigrants, for example, for those at risk of dying from dehydration.
These funds are not reimbursed to IHS and result in the inability
of certain tribal members to receive health care services that
are allocated for their benefit. The Nation spends millions of
dollars a year to pay for the 6 tons of trash per day left by
undocumented immigrants and the Nation is faced with cleaning
up the 113 open pit dumps on the Reservation. There are 758 homes
on the Reservation (20% of all homes on the Reservation) are without
potable water and 1,393 (38% of all homes) are without a sewer
or water system. Many of the residents at these homes use either
hand-dug or agricultural wells for drinking water and are exposed
to contaminants such as fecal coliform, arsenic and fluoride in
excess of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards. The total
need to construct suitable drinking water and waste water systems
for these homes is estimated at $24.4 million.
IV. DEMONSTRATED NEED FOR IMPROVED COORDINATION, ASSESSMENT OF
VULNERABILITIES AND ENHANCED COMMUNICATIONS CAPACITIES IN SECURING
The Tohono O'odham Nation is working as diligently as possible
on border security protection. However, the current crisis is
overwhelming us. We need immediate and substantial assistance.
We have limited border infrastructure: 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 perpetual stream of illegal crossers.
Our surveillance capabilities are similarly limited, with
respect to ground and aerial surveillance. We have basic communications
The 75 mile stretch of international border along the Tohono
O'odham Nation continues to be very vulnerable due to the limited
border infrastructure and the extreme lack of resources and technology
along the border. Moreover, the ever increasing
influx of undocumented immigrants and narcotics crossing through
our Reservation renders the region an extremely difficult and
dangerous area to secure.
With respect to coordination, we are currently working with the
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) and coordinating
our efforts under the Arizona Border Control Initiative (ABCI).
The Tohono O'odham Nation Police Department (TONPD) through a
joint effort with the Border Area Narcotics Network (BANN) and
COBIJA operation (used along the Borders of TX, NM, AZ and CA)
provide a high intensity deterrence of narcotic and undocumented
immigrant smuggling on our Reservation. The TONPD participates
in the sharing of statistical data and intelligence information
with the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)
center. The TONPD works well with Federal, State and Tribal agencies
throughout Arizona, and domestic and foreign entities. The BCBP
provides air support at the request of the TONPD, when it is available.
Interoperability For The Tohono O'odham Nation Over the past four
years, a top border security priority for the Tohono O'odham Nation
has been to gain interoperability between first responders: TONPD,
Tohono O'odham Fire Department (TOFD) and Emergency Medical Services
(EMS) contracted under Indian Health Service (IHS). The TONPD
has limited communication ability with BCPB through an ACU 1000.
The key challenge in gaining interoperability is the disparity
of radio frequency being used between the first responder agencies.
The TONPD was established using initially a 400 megahertz (Mhz)
frequency, that was later upgraded to its current 800 Mhz status.
When the TOFD was established, a joint agreement with IHS added
the TOFD to IHS's existing 700 Mhz frequency, which also included
EMS. As a result, the three first responder agencies have two
different frequencies to serve one community.
The cost to bring at least the tribal agencies (TONPD and TOFD)
under one frequency was estimated to cost over one million dollars,
but would only provide 75% coverage for the 4600 square miles
just for the contiguous land mass. Interoperability requires not
only a common frequency, but also a common communications center.
Many of the grant opportunities that exist do not include funding
for brick and mortar, thus funding opportunities for equipment
and technical assistance have little utility without an operational
facility. Currently, our first responders communicate between
two dispatch centers with equipment and frequencies that are not
common, thus debilitating our response time and service capability
to our communities.
For instance, a 911 call that is placed by a community member
is placed with TONPD, then transferred to EMS through a land line
and then passed on to TOFD to create the loop. But when seconds
are minutes in a crisis this only challenges the critical hour
that is needed to get assistance to that member. The now aging
equipment requires a maintenance agreement that costs the Nation
over $30,000 annually to support that supplies them with unsecured
and non-trunked communications that potentially is a safety hazard
in some situations. Within the boundaries of the contiguous land
mass of the Reservation, there is a heavy presence of federal
agencies such as Border Patrol, U.S. Customs, FBI and others who
provide support for drug trafficking, human trafficking, and incursions
by undocumented immigrants. The TONPD is a community-based policing
agency that has been compelled by our unique circumstances to
carry our federal border security/law enforcement responsibilities.
The lack of interoperability between these federal agencies and
the TONPD has exacerbated the already overburdened resources we
expend on federal border security efforts. With the increasing
traffic of illegal immigration, interoperability between Border
Patrol and the TONPD is necessary to request, assist and direct
those resources (Border Patrol, BORSTAR) to properly manage border
security responsibilities which in turn, will allow the TONPD
to focus on community policing. The Impact Of The 9/11 Incident
On Interoperability The unfortunate and tragic events of 9-11
brought the need for interoperability to the forefront of almost
all policing and law enforcement agencies, and such focus is now
on border security, including on our stretch of the international
border. The increased attention however has divided our time and
resources between federal initiatives, state initiatives, county
initiatives to secure our border. From our perspective, we see
that the Federal, State and County players want to manage and
be in charge, but no one wants to provide direct funding to us
for our ongoing border security efforts and unmet needs.
To gain attention to our plight, we began
pursuing every avenue to tell the story of the drugs, the flood
of illegal immigration, and other contraband crossing our lands.
Recently a passport that was located on the Reservation that was
owned by a middle easterner thought to be involved in terrorism.
Although the matter was later cleared up, it demonstrates
the extreme vulnerabilities that exist on our stretch of the international
border. During a meeting with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in
Phoenix, a representative of the Department of Homeland Security
took strong interest in the matters that were occurring on the
Tohono O'odham Nation. Mr. Charles Cape, who was then the Senior
Advisor of Wireless Telecommunication at the department of Homeland
Security (DHS) visited and met with our tribal leadership to discuss
the interoperability issue. The Department of Information and
Technology (DIT) was given charge of working with Mr. Cape and
DHS to create interoperability. During this process of working
with DHS, it became quite evident that this new agency lacked
an understanding of tribal culture, tradition and government to
effectively work with through complex issues of tribal governance.
Mr. Cape worked with us in developing a three phase project to
provide interoperability on our Reservation. Phase one, which
included interoperability between the TONPD and Border Patrol,
has progressed with the purchase of an ACU-1000. The ACU-1000
can simultaneously cross-band two or more different radio networks,
connect a radio network to a telephone line (or SATCOM system),
or even create a conference call between several different radio
networks and a caller on the telephone line. The ACU-1000 was
given to the Tohono O'odham Nation, but resides within the dispatch
center of the Border Patrol due to the lack of space at either
one of our dispatch centers. Ultimately, it will be placed with
our dispatch center and we would control the communications between
the different agencies.
Mr. Cape eventually moved on within the DHS, and others were
left to continue the project. IN his absence, it appears that
the agency's level of commitment has declined as the project appears
to have been given less priority. Department of Information and
Technology (DIT) continues to meet with Border Patrol in overseeing
telecommunication of the Southwest Region, and continues to work
on moving the interoperability project forward, but only in incremental
steps due to the department's lack of authority within the greater
DHS agency. Moreover, Border Patrol has offered to provide maintenance
on our existing radio equipment, but since they lost a key communications
tower on Mt. Lemmon, they have been unable to provide support
in a timely manner. There has been some discussion that there
is money identified in the federal FY05 budget to purchase a digital
trunked system for the southwest region and the use of federal
secured frequencies would be used by the Nation.
Current State of Interoperability As of June 2004, there has
been movement to complete phase one of gaining interoperability
between our first responders. In a recent meeting with Border
Patrol, D1T and EMS, Border Patrol agreed to loan equipment to
the Indian Health Service through a federal interagency loan agreement
which would allow IHS's outdated equipment to be compliant interface
with the ACU-1000. DIT is pushing for full interoperability between
first responders by July 2004. Since the passage of the Pima County
Bond for communication system for the county, DIT along with TONPD,
TOFD, EMS and the state Director of Public Safety are completing
a survey regarding existing infrastructure, and current communications
systems, frequencies and dispatch locations for the purpose of
developing a strategic plan to spend the bond revenue. At this
juncture, we are unaware of the impact this strategic plan will
have on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Other Concerns Regarding Interoperability When the state became
involved with interoperability, the state Office of Homeland Security
and Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS), attempted to
take over Quijtoa Ridge, by negotiating with Tohono O'odham Utility
Authority to occupy over half of the space in their building on
the ridge, they proposed antennae placement utilizing over half
of the space, almost 10 time the current space that they are currently
using. There was no discussion on whether the Nation would be
benefactors in the use of their planned communication system,
and DHS, at that time, reportedly was not aware of the plans that
the state has in developing interoperability cooperatively with
the affected federal agencies. In the past, the TONPD has requested
tower space on locations such as Childs Mountain, Ajo tower space
and tower space near Gila Bend for San Lucy and were provided
with costs, but was ultimately notified that â€œthere
was not enough space.â€ In summary, our experience
with regard to coordination and cooperation with Federal, State
and County governments on border security matters historically
has been lacking and ineffective.
Though there have been positive steps on opening lines of communication
and allowing us to take part in certain initiatives, the Tohono
O'odham Nation believes a strategic, comprehensive planning approach
to secure the international borders is critically needed. As such,
we fully supports the purposes and objectives of the S. 2295.
S.2295 will provide much needed congressional direction to more
effectively coordinate law enforcement efforts, to candidly and
fully assess vulnerabilities, to improve communications capacity
and to more equitably allocate resources to improve border security.
We fully support the bill's specific inclusion of Indian tribal
governments in bill's various provisions. Based on our experience
and limited ability to secure homeland security resources, we
urge the Committee to favorably act on our proposed amendment
to 5. 2295 which would create a pilot project for the purpose
of working directly with Tribal Governments on strengthening border
security. Existing P.L. 93-638 self-determination contracting
authority would be utilized to carry the purposes of the proposed
tribal pilot program.
The amendment would require the submission of a report to Congress
setting forth the accomplishments and barriers of implementing
such a program. For too long, we have been absorbing the burdens
associated with protecting the border because we must protect
our lands and tribal members. Because Indian tribes are not authorized
to receive direct homeland security funding, we have faced significant
barriers in accessing these resources. Thus, we have not received
any significant federal funding or resources for our law enforcement/border
security activities, notwithstanding 9-11. Moreover, as a sovereign
government, the Tohono O'odham Nation seeks a seat at the table
when policy and other important decisions are made that affect
us. Our amendment will ensure that we are provided both the resources
and afforded proper consultation in this important initiative
to strengthen America's international borders.
In closing, on behalf of the Tohono O'odham Nation, I appreciate
the opportunity to present this statement to the Committee and
respectfully request the Committee's favorable consideration of
the Nation's proposed amendment. Proposed Amendment to S. 2295
to establish a Tohono O'odham Nation pilot border project. Amend
Title I to add at the end thereof a new Section 108: SEC. 108.
ESTABLISHING PILOT BORDER PREPAREDNESS PROGRAM ON TRIBAL LANDS--
(a) PURPOSE. To establish a pilot program to enhance the capability
of Tribal governments as first responders upon Tribal lands on
or near the international borders of the United States with effective
aerial and ground surveillance technologies, integrated communications
systems and equipment, health and bioterror monitoring mechanisms,
and personnel training, and facilitate the coordination by Tribal
governments of their responses with those of federal, state, and
local governments to threats and hazards to the defense and security
of the United States. (b) INITIAL PILOT PROGRAM TO PROVIDE BORDER
PREPAREDNESS ASSISTANCE. The Secretary shall establish a pilot
program to provide assistance to the Tohono O'odham Nation, a
federally recognized Indian Tribal government, that will enhance
the capability of this economically distressed Tribe carry out
on a demonstration basis the purposes described in subsection
(a) and to assist in the effective enforcement of Federal, State
and Tribal law against all national security hazards arising from
the Tribe's proximity to the international border with Mexico.
(c) EXPANDED PILOT PROGRAM TO PROVIDE BORDER PREPAREDNESS ASSISTANCE.Upon
transmission of the report required in subsection (i), the Secretary
shall establish an expanded pilot program to add up to 4 federally
recognized Indian Tribal governments, in addition to the Tohono
O'odham Nation, to assist in the effective enforcement of Federal,
State and Tribal law against all national security hazards arising
from their proximity to the international borders of the United
States. (d) ADMINISTRATION OF ASSISTANCE. For each of fiscal years
2005, 2006 and 2007, the Secretary shall provide funds and other
assistance to the Tribal governments under this section pursuant
to flexible grant or contract authorities consistent with the
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, as amended
(25 U.S.C. 450b et seq.), and the Tribal governments shall administer
this assistance only in accordance with the requirements of that
Act. â€œ(e) USES OF ASSISTANCE. Assistance provided
to Tribal governments under this section shall be used consistent
with the purposes of subsection (a) and in a manner that develops
prototype inter-governmental agreements with Federal, Tribal,
State, regional and local governments on strategies designed to
coordinate and enhance efforts to defend against hazards to the
security of the United States. (f) AUTHORIZATION OF FUNDS. For
each fiscal year, in providing assistance under subsection (b),
the Secretary shall make directly available to the Tohono O'odham
Nation such sums as may be necessary to demonstrate the potential
worth of such a pilot program. For each fiscal year, in providing
assistance under subsection (c), the Secretary shall make directly
available to the Tribal governments such sums as may be necessary
to carry out the purposes of (a). (g) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.
Not later than 1 year and 30 days after implementing the pilot
program under subsection (b), the Tohono O'odham Nation shall
submit a report to the Secretary of Homeland Security which sets
out the accomplishments achieved and obstacles encountered. (h)
REPORT TO CONGRESS. Not later than 1 year and 90 days after implementing
the pilot program under subsection (b), the Secretary of Homeland
Security shall submit to the Senate Committees on Indian Affairs
and on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and to the House
Committees on Science, on Homeland Security, and on Resources,a
report describing the implementation of the pilot tribal lands
program and any recommendations for improving and expanding the
pilot program to other Tribal governments.
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