In Canada a disproportionate number of indigenous women are missing and found murdered with evidence of police collusion and the roots of the problem reside in colonial administrative policies which the federal government maintains. Genocidal policies designed to destroy the indigenous people have been acknowledged and apologies have been given but there is no change in current policies which continue to violate human rights of the indigenous people.
There is genocide happening in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatamala and El Salvador and in the country of Mexico too. Violent crime in their communities, gang related or otherwise, has created a situation where thousands of refugees, many of them children, have crossed the US border seeking protection and in fear of losing their lives.
It is important to distinguish between immigrants and refugees. An immigrant is anyone that migrates from their country or region of origin to a different country or region. A refugee is anyone that migrates from their country or region of origin for fear of persecution and a return to their country or region of origin will cause further persecution. Refugees travel because of fear. The United Nations’ definition states "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…"
It is clear to most of us that these children seeking refuge are in great fear of being injured or killed and this is what qualifies them as refugees. Every one of the refugee children has a right to a fair hearing to determine their status and to seek asylum. They have the same human rights as everyone else. They have a legal status and are not illegal immigrants or “illegals” sneaking across a border meant to keep them out.
In addition, these refugees are indigenous people. Pre- European colonization of North and South America and Canada indigenous people inhabited these continents.
Sarah Palin, in her call for the president’s impeachment, stated “Without borders, there is no nation.” This rhetoric strikes fear in the hearts of all people of color because this sounds like Nationalism and/or Patriotism and historically this has meant mass destruction of our way of life. It was nearly 400 years ago when a group of immigrants seeking refuge from religious persecution came to this country occupied by indigenous people and they were welcomed and taught to fish, hunt, gather and farm. Without borders we welcomed these refugees in and the rest is history.
I would like to formally express my solidarity with the indigenous refugees to our South and the victims of human rights violations of the indigenous neighbors to our North. Within the United States there has been talk of a comprehensive “Indian Border Act” to address issues regarding both the United States/Canadian border and the United States/Mexican border. Immigration reform needs to include the voices of indigenous people. I am calling on the government to respect the sovereignty of the Native American nations and allow our indigenous neighbors to the north and south refuge in the United States.
Donna Ennis is employed in the Behavioral Health Program and is a Tribal Elder at Fond du Lac Reservation. She is on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Board of Social Work. She is also on the Approved Continuing Education Committee for the Association of Social Work Boards.