PHOENIX — A tribal nation that sits along the Arizona-Mexico border is sending a message to President Donald Trump: “We do not support any wall.”
“A wall built on the border, we believe, is not the answer to securing America,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Vice Chairman Verlon Jose in a recent YouTube video.
The Nation is a federally recognized tribe of 34,000 members, including more than 2,000 residing in Mexico, according to their website.
The group said 62 miles of the international border, where the president’s new wall would presumably be constructed, is on Tohono O’odham reservation land.
“We believe that what is effective is continued cooperation and working together,” Jose said.
Jose said in the video that putting up a wall would impact the tribe’s way of life, since its members “cross the border daily for just basic necessities. We also cross for burials, to visit our relatives.”
Tohono-O’odham Nation leaders emphasized that the group has worked closely with Border Patrol officials to secure the border, seizing hundreds of thousands of drugs annually and spending millions on border security.
“The cost for protecting the border is not only a huge cost to [the] United States government,” Jose said. “It also is a tremendous cost to the Tohono-O’odham Nation.”
The Tohono-O’odham Nation is not the only Arizona opponent of the border wall: Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe spoke out in opposition of the plan on Monday, calling it a waste of taxpayer money.
The Government Accountability Office has agreed with Uribe’s statements, finding in a Feb. 16 report that the government does not have a way to measure how well fencing works to deter illegal crossings from Mexico.
But former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has supported the plan throughout Trump’s campaign and said Monday she hopes it can be completed during his first term.
On Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called on Customs and Border Protection to “immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads.”
Trump initially signed an executive order to build the border wall, his biggest campaign promise, in January.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report concluded in early February the border wall could cost as much as $21.6 billion and would take nearly four years to build.
The president has repeatedly estimated the border wall would cost $12 billion and would be paid for by taxpayers, but insisted that Mexico would pay us back in full through trade agreements and taxes.