I feel one of the biggest obstacles in securing our border, is one that few have the courage to talk about. It is the 75-mile-long portion of the Arizona-Sonora border that straddles the Tohono O’odham Reservation. This stretch of land which accounts for almost four percent of the US/Mexico border is one of the busiest smuggling corridors in North America. It has been a primary entry point and transit zone for illegal drug and human trafficking activity for decades.
According to the Tohono O’odham Nation, their federally recognized reservation covers 4,460 square miles within the Sonoran Desert. The Nation’s boundaries begin South of Casa Grande, and it encompasses parts of Pinal, Pima, and Maricopa Counties before continuing South into Mexico.
The Tohono O’odham Nation includes approximately 28,000 members, 40% of which live well below the poverty line, even though their tribal status allows them to cross the US/Mexico border freely. The Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most powerful criminal enterprises, has taken advantage of the Nation's endemic poverty for generations. The Cartel can easily offer a tribal member $10,000 for a two-hour drug run, the kind of money most couldn’t earn in a year.
In March of 2019, ABC Nightline News aired this report, “On tribal land along US-Mexico border, drug and human smuggling corrupts an ancient culture.” In that report, tribal elder David Garcia, told ABC News, “We’re killing our own people,” "And if we don’t do anything, then we’re just as much the problem as well.” Garcia also confessed, “It’s no secret that a lot of our tribal members are involved in the smuggling of migrants and drugs.”
At a February 2020 Congressional subcommittee hearing, the Tohono O’odham tribe made claims that “Trump's Wall Is Destroying Tribal Sites.” Congressman Paul Gosar countered with his claim that the Democrats are raising concerns about Tohono O'odham cultural sites as a "prop," to undermine Trump's border wall. I agree with Paul and believe it’s time to stop using our minority communities as pawns, and start coming up with solutions that are a win/win for Arizona and the Tohono O’odham Nation. The only ones winning right now are the Cartels who raked in $14 Million every day last year.
It’s time that serious people sit down with Tribal Leaders and negotiate a plan that brings both our Nation's kids a brighter future, one that’s free from the Cartel’s poison and misery. I’m ready to start the conversation now, and when elected, I will make it one of my primary missions