Photo: Mike Wilson at his water station for migrants on O'odham land. Photo Brenda Norrell.
In an interview with Phoenix New Times, Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham who puts out water for migrants, responds to Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr.'s comments, issued by a pubic relations firm.
Wilson, who will be in Scottsdale Tuesday and Thursday for a Q & A session after a screening of the border documentary Crossing Arizona, took issue with Chairman Norris' statement, calling the statement an abrogation of the nation's moral responsibility to act.
"The nation has refused to acknowledge, even in its vocabulary, that human beings are dying on tribal lands," said Wilson if the Norris statement, which refers to "illegal immigration" and to "migrants" crossing, but not to the deaths. "It has repeatedly refused to accept any kind of moral responsibility for migrants dying in the desert."
On the issue of the districts acting independently, Wilson had this to say:
"We've heard this argument before...It's a legal fig leaf to hide behind that notion that it's up to the districts to determine their own policies. That's true to an extent, but the nation should not resort to legalism. This is a human rights issue."
In his statement, Norris also talks of the nation agreeing to the placement of "eight highly visible beacon towers" on the nation by Border Patrol, which a migrant could use to signal for help if needed. Wilson stated that the beacons are "not sufficient to prevent migrant deaths," and asserted that these beacons are not often used.
"I find it very hypocritical," replied Wilson, "for the Tohono O'odham Nation to say that tribal members cannot provide humanitarian aid, but that the Border Patrol can provide humanitarian aid in the form of these rescue beacons, because these beacons are there to prevent migrants from dying in the desert.
"I think that also clearly demonstrates that the Tohono O'Odham Nation has surrendered its will to the U.S. Border Patrol."