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How a Border Wall Would Separate Indigenous Communities

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Volunteers look over the U.S.–Mexico border fence.

Immigration restrictions were making life difficult for Native Americans who live along—and across—the United States–Mexico border even before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to build his border wall.

The traditional homelands of 36 federally recognized tribes—including the Kumeyaay, Pai, Cocopah, O’odham, Yaqui, Apache, and Kickapoo peoples—were split in two by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and 1853 Gadsden Purchase, which carved modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas out of northern Mexico.

Today, tens of thousands of people belonging to U.S. Native tribes live in the Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora, Coahuila, and Chihuahua, my research estimates. The Mexican government does not recognize indigenous peoples in Mexico as nations as the U.S. does, so there is no enrollment system there.

Still, many Native people in Mexico routinely cross the U.S.–Mexico border to participate in cultural events, visit religious sites, attend burials, go to school, or visit family. Like other “non-resident aliens,” they must pass through rigorous security checkpoints, where they are subject to interrogation, inspection, and rejection or delay.

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Thanks !

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