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Native American Leaders Bring Facts and Fire to Open Borders Hearing

Tribal leaders were prepared, DC Swampers were not, and the FBI was pushed under the bus.

What began as a fact-finding mission by the members of the House Committee on Natural Resources soon turned into a finger-pointing partisan blame game until the posturing politicians yielded the floor to representatives of several Native American tribes. The subject of the hearing was how America’s open border crisis is devastating reservations. The tribal leaders were prepared; the DC Swampers were not. Generations of the US government came under fire for allowing drug cartels to move freely through tribal lands.

The hearing memo highlighted the committee’s goals:

“President Biden’s failed immigration policies have made every community a border community. International criminal cartels are taking advantage of these failed border policies to traffic massive amounts of illegal drugs, as well as people, across the United States. International criminal cartels actively target rural communities in Indian country.”

Bryce Kirk, tribal executive board member, Fort Peck Tribes, Poplar, MT; Jeffrey Stiffarm, president, Fort Belknap Indian Community, Harlem, MT; Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies, Center for Immigration Studies; and Verlon Jose, chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona, were on hand to testify on behalf of their people.

We Need Your Help

Brief remarks by committee Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) set the tone: Gosar labeled it a Biden open borders policy problem and Stansbury claimed Republicans won’t play ball and that a solution is close at hand. But after those pledges of civility and bipartisan work for the people, the committee asked the visitors for their input on making the crisis disappear.

Tribal leaders want direct funding to stop the fentanyl crisis. Cartels move people and products to reservations because they have thousands of acres of land with little in the way of population. There are not enough federal agents to work the 326 designated reservations, so the cartels act unimpeded.

All leaders want to be able to use designated budgets in ways that will serve each community best. “Bureaucratic red tape” was a common phrase sprinkled into the discussions of fentanyl and cartel invasions. As Kirk pointed out, there are no strings attached or hoops to jump through for billions of dollars going to Ukraine, Iran, and Israel. “I see these aid packages going overseas, and I ask, why not start here?” He added, “What do you want us to do? Sit down and have a talk with the cartel?”

Kirk claimed these regional, departmental, and congressional hearings essentially amount to checking the “we worked with Indian Country” box. Every tribal representative echoed Kirk’s accusation throughout the two-hour hearing.

No matter the reservation location, each tribe is at odds with the government. But no one named names — as much as House committee members encouraged them to lay the blame at Joe Biden’s slip-on wingtips. But they did push the FBI into oncoming traffic at every intersection of the discussion.

Armed With Facts and Ammo

Sometimes referred to as “the last best place” in America, Montana has around 1.2 million people and 150,000 square miles of rugged terrain and pristine wilderness. What’s not to love if you are a drug lord who wants to set up shop and make a cool billion or two? A cartel counterfeit fentanyl pill costs 25 cents to make in Mexico and can sell for up to $100 in remote parts of Montana.

That’s what the committee learned from Stiffarm. Accompanied by three two-inch-thick reports and findings – after testifying hundreds of times before various departments and attending the mandatory once-a-year meeting with the FBI – he approaches the problem with eyes wide open. “This is the ‘check Indian box,’” he began. Holding a binder aloft, he said:

“This represents promises broken. All these problems have been looked at. And we are still left alone to fight this problem. We do not have help from the FBI or Border Patrol. We meet with them once a year, and I ask agents, ‘What tribes are you protecting here?’ And they can’t answer. That tells me they don’t care. They come here when a serious crime happens, take their pictures, write reports, and they’re gone.”

Rosendale asked: “Do you believe the FBI is adequately prioritizing efforts to prevent and prosecute?” Stiffarm replied, “No, they don’t.” He also surprised the attendees by stating that his budget for law enforcement was $1.2 million 20 years ago, and now his base funding is $2.3 million. “We send billions of dollars overseas for wars, yet you can’t spend millions here to protect our people? America’s First People?”

GettyImages-1745142292 Matthew Rosendale

Matthew Rosendale (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Both sides of the aisle, including Stansbury, Gosar, Rosendale, Reps. Jose Garcia (D-IL), Jerry Carl (R-AL), and Harriet Hageman (R-WY), were well into the hearing when someone decided to lob a grenade at Vaughan. Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-IL) hurled accusations and not questions, beginning with “Do you believe in the Great Replacement Theory?” The theory is, of course, that white people are now on an extinction list so that Hispanics can take over the world.

Ramirez fired off other provocative statements, spending her allotted time just being a pest. When Gosar asked Vaughn if she’d like to respond to the “attack,” she finally answered, “Of course, I don’t believe that.”

Unpacking the Native American Cartel Problem

There is no easy answer to the border crisis, no one-size-fits-all solution. Tohono O’odham Nation Chair Jose has a reservation that spans southern Arizona and parts of Mexico. There are two federal jurisdictions, and nothing works. Jose requested that the lawmakers ensure each tribe is consulted on how to best to use the aid allotted and “hold the government accountable for their trust and treaty obligations.”

Politician posturing aside, those testifying were compelling. Kirk recounted a meeting with Indian Health Services, in which he was told the agency had “unused” funds but couldn’t tell him where they were earmarked. “The IHS has $50 million in carryover funds? Fifty 50 mil sitting there. They turn us down. If you guys can’t see someone who can spend 50 million, how can you guys bipartisanly come together and say we need more money?”

The US government was accused of perpetuating a generational epidemic through laws enacted and laws unenforced. Representatives and tribal leaders all agreed it was the government’s fault – not any specific administration.

As Stiffarm said, “I don’t want to speak this way about the FBI, but the truth is the truth.”

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