Amnesty International recently released a report titled, “In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest,” stating that Latinos, immigrants and Native Americans are subject to “a pattern of human right violations” along the Southwestern border (Arizona and Texas mostly) under the U.S. immigration policies according to an article at CNN.com.
The two-year study found border communities are disproportionately affected by a variety of immigration control measures leading to the violations according to Amnesty International.
The report draws attention to the failure of federal and state laws to respect immigrants’ right to life, not to mention its findings for U.S. citizens of Latino descent or Native American heritage being subjected to “discriminatory profiling by federal, state and local law enforcement officials, that result in their being disproportionately targeted for police stops and searches,” as reported by CNN.com.
Arizona’s immigration law H.B. 1070, which gives law enforcement the right to stop and request legal documentation from anyone the officers consider suspicious could have an impact.
The report also highlighted a concern for the Indigenous Peoples whose lands and communities straddle the border, stating they are “often intimidated and harassed by border officials for speaking little English or Spanish and holding only tribal identification documents,” according to Reuters.
The report however, has been criticized and dismissed by United States officials.
“Amnesty International’s report is based almost entirely on either outdated information or anonymous anecdotes that can be neither investigated nor resolved,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler told CNN.com.
Even though it’s findings are being dismissed, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t long ago when the U.S. Justice Department accused the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona of engaging in systematic racial profiling against Latinos in its efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, according to Reuters.
The report goes on to recommend that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection include and work with the 26 Indian nations that live or straddle the border. This includes acknowledging tribal passports, identification papers, and immigration documents for travel across the border.
The report under section three, “Abuses Against indigenous Peoples,” shares the story of “A.B.” who has been living in hiding for 10 years. He’s a Tohono O’odham citizen, who worked on a ranch in the U.S. but while crossing back stateside from Sonoyta, State of Sonora, Mexico was detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), arrested, and called racial slurs before being deported back to Sonoyta. A week later, he returned to the U.S. by crossing two hours from the checkpoint. He is married to a Tohono O’odham and U.S. citizen, but must remain on the reservation because he cannot cross through any of the checkpoints.
Ofelia Rivas, an advocate and Tohono O’odham member, told Amnesty International in the report that the reservation has three border checkpoints and she is stopped every time. “There are CBP checkpoints at all three exits from the [Tohono O’odham] Nation and we are inspected to see if we have migrants or drugs. I live 130 miles from Tucson and I go through these checkpoints to get groceries and supplies regularly. I speak O’odham to them and I’m always pulled over for a secondary check and they use a drug dog. Every time,” she said in the report.
Some of the border tribes like Tohono O’odham issue Tribal Identification Cards that are considered a legitimate form of identification. The report says that the U.S. government has started working with tribes on enhanced Tribal IDs that contain microchips to allow border crossing. “However, there are concerns that some tribal members may not qualify because, for example, they cannot provide a birth certificate,” the report said. “Even those individuals with Tribal ID cards may encounter problems as Border Patrol agents sometimes question the validity or do not accept Tribal ID as a valid form of documentation for crossing the border.”
Chandler confirmed with CNN.com that the government is working with tribes on developing forms of identification and as of January the government has approved six of 12 forms submitted by tribes as valid forms for crossing the border. He also said that two of the six tribes, the Kootenai of Idaho and the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona, have fully approved Enhanced Tribal Cards.
Similar difficulties affect tribes that are not federally recognized as they are not subject to Tribal ID cards.
According to Reuters, Chandler said, “The department has worked hard to create a culture where all people are respected and treated fairly and within the bounds of the law.”
“If we want to visit Mexico for our sacred lands, you need a passport, but there are bars to getting one,” Antonio Diaz of the Texas Indigenous Council said in the report. “We are still connected to the lands … I have to ask for permits, which means they have taken that right [to travel to sacred lands] away.”