The St. Regis Mohawk Indian reservation in New York is unique in that part of it lies within the U.S., and part lies within Canada. This makes the reservation a popular spot for smugglers and anyone else who wants to enter the U.S. unnoticed, like Ahmed Salah of Bahrain, and Abdullah Mohammed of Pakistan. I wonder why they were trying to enter the country?
Until last year, the reservation received no homeland security money at all. In 2004, it received $5,000.
“I’m slowly pulling my hair out,” says Derek Champagne. “If we’re gonna have a border, it should really mean something.”
Last year, about $8.4 million in marijuana and $6 million in ecstasy were seized after moving through the reservation and into the quiet farm country of northern New York. Officials arrested 120 people as well, a mix of tribal members and outsiders.
It’s a fraction of what comes over.
“Do you honestly think we’re getting 5 percent of what comes through?” asks Champagne, district attorney for Franklin County, which surrounds the reservation and prosecutes all crimes committed there.
The numbers come from a two-year-old task force of more than a dozen local, state and federal authorities. But they work mostly outside the reservation and its 9,000 residents on the American side.
Champagne pops in a videotape of the St. Lawrence River that divides the tribal lands in two. On the tape, shot in winter, trucks drive freely over the frozen river. In other parts of the reservation, land roads connect the U.S. and Canada all year, with no checkpoints and no questions. — Newsday
Part of the problem is the long-running tension between the tribe and state and federal government.
“I’m gonna burn my tribal card,” Julius Beeson says.
He grabs his wallet and starts toward the fire that burns outside a longhouse on the reservation.
“I’ve never been denied access to my own land before,” he says.
Beeson just got caught in the unique geography. He tried to cross the one bridge that links the reservation’s two halves, but was turned back by federal border officials for not having the right ID. . . .
“People think we’re no-good, friggin’ smugglers and we all drive Cadillac Escalades,” Beeson says. He gestures to his 1988 Honda with a rusty bottom. “Yeah.”
Beeson says he just wanted to go to work, fixing a house on an island on the Canadian side. Now he says he’s out a day’s pay, and maybe the job.
“And you wonder,” he says, still angry, still fingering his wallet, “why so many of us are going back to the river.” — Newsday
Still, the $5,000 isn’t nearly enough for tribal authorities to do much of anything about plugging the hole in the border. They ultimately wound up building a fence — around the police station.
If the government is serious about its proposal to stop terrorists from entering the country in the first place, then situations like this have to be dealt with.