Tribal leader repeats vow to fight Arizona-Mexico border wall
PHOENIX — A leader has reiterated his decision to fight a proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico that would cut tribal lands in two.
“I will do everything I can to oppose this wall,” Tohono O’odham Nation Vice Chairman Verlon Jose said during an interview with The Guardian. “I have to. That’s what I’m here for. I will oppose it.”
Jose, whose tribe has moved between southwestern Arizona and Mexico for decades, said the wall would cut his community and its way of life in half.
“I would feel very sad,” he said. “I can’t see my homeland, no matter which side I stepped on.
“I couldn’t see my family, I could not reach out to my friends … to greet them, to feel them, to let them know that we’re OK.”
Jose has been a vocal opponent of the wall since President Donald Trump made it a key promise during his campaign.
Two years ago, he told KJZZ that the ancestral lands — which includes more than 60 miles of the international border — are more important to the community than politics.
“Over my dead body will a wall be built,” Jose said at the time, describing some community members’ sentiments.
“I don’t wish to die but I do wish to work together with people so we can truly protect the homeland of this place they call the United States of America. Not only for our people but for the American people.”
The Tohono O’odham reservation begins west of Lukeville and ends east of Sasabe. It is southwest of Tucson.
The tribe has about 34,000 members, about 2,000 of which live in Mexico.