Educators And Immigration

Tohono O'odham Nation and the Border Patrol Agents

Meeting with Ofelia Rivas

No IFTs on O'odham Land

Our group was able to meet with Ofelia Rivas from Tohono O’odham Nation to learn about how the border patrol policies have impacted their community. Their land extends south to Sonora, Mexico, north to Central Arizona, west to the Gulf of California, and east to the San Pedro River.[i] Their homeland is located in the Sonora Desert and is located between the United States and Mexico, with family members on both side of this political border. Members have to cross the border to visit family, attend traditional tribal ceremonies, and meet with the tribal council.[ii] The presidential administration has proposed to build a border wall that would permanently separate the two side of this Nation, something vehemently opposed by the Tohono O’odham people. All Tohono O’odham tribal members are U.S. citizens and can cross onto both sides. Meeting with Ofelia offered us the opportunity to learn about how anti-immigrant sentiments and US immigration policies affect her community. Due to their dark-skinned complexion and Spanish surnames, members of the Nation are frequently targeted by the Border Patrol, detained and questioned about their citizenship status. Many Border Patrol agents do not have sufficient cultural training and do not understand the concept of tribal membership. Ofelia also discussed at length the technology that the U.S. government is implementing in the border, including the Integrated Fixed Towers (IFTs) that the government is proposing to put on Tohono O’odham land. These towers will be between 120 to 180 feet in high and emit cellular and microwaves with potentially harmful impacts on plants, animals, and humans. In addition to opposing the IFTs, the Tohono O’odham Nation has expressed their opposition to the wall in a video.


[i] “The Border Crossed Us: The Tohono O’Odham Nation’s Divide,” last modified May 15, accessed September 1, 2019,

[ii] “The Border Crossed Us: The Tohono O’Odham Nation’s Divide,”

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