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Exclusive 13 On Your Side: Walled In

Walled In
"I see it as the fence is a cage. That's the way I look at it. They are building a cage for us to stay in," said James Lau.
 
Lau is a Cocopah Tribal Member, one of several members we've talked to who aren't for a border wall being built on their land.
 
"When I was younger, we used to walk out there to the river and we were able to go fish over there. Now they have it fenced off where the levee is. You can't go back there anymore. They come back they ask you who you are they run all your license plate they do all these things now," says Lau.
 
Lau's referring to Border Patrol that patrols the borders to derail illegal activity. As it is Cocopah Tribal Land more than six miles of rail fencing used to barricade vehicles from crossing through into the U.S. from Mexico.
 
The Tohono O'odham Nation has 62 miles on along the border while the Quechan Tribe borders a little more than three miles. All of which have fencing to separate Mexico from the states.
 
Now President Trump would like to see the fencing turned into a wall in hopes it would make it more difficult for illegals to cross. 
 
Regardless on using it as a deterrent for illegal activity, Verlon Jose Vice Chairmen of the Tohono O'odham Nation, says it's hurting their tribe. In an interview with CBS news he speaks against it. 
 
"If I were to go to your home and say you know what, I should build a wall  from your home to your back yard and you can't cross your back yard unless you come through me. That's how I view it," says Jose.
 
While the Cocopah Council has declined to comment on their stance on a wall. Many tribal members across Arizona say it would impact their tribes to their determent.
 
"We didn't have a say in it," says Cocopah Tribal Member Jeremy Mitchell.
 
Mitchell is referring to the barricade that stands on Cocopah lands now.
 
Which poses the question who has final say on a border wall being built?
 
Indian law expert with Lewis Roca Rothgerber, Pilar Thomas, says the ultimate decision is up to the government.
 
"In this case if the tribe opposed building any type of wall on their land then the United States probably in all likelihood has the legal right to build that wall and use that land," says Thomas.
 
Thomas says even though the government has a right to use the land they would have to pay up.
 
"As a general matter, the United States would acquire land for general use purposes, as long as it pays just compensation, under the constitutional requirements," says Thomas.
 
Compensation that would have to meet today's fair market value, money aside some tribal members say it's hurting their culture.
 
"There was a lot of the plants that were back there. There was a lot of things that were indigenous, including the animals and just the whole habitat and they've cleared it," says Lau.
 
He's referring to the barricade that sits on the Cocopah lands now which he says has cleared a lot of Arrow Weed from the area. Making it hard to find the plant used for traditional games like Peon, a game played by children. 
 
As for now many tribal members in Arizona are just waiting to see what happens, hoping congress will not fund a wall and honor their sovereign land.

 


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