Reservation Ban of Water for Migrants Is Reported

Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), September 3, 2008

A Tohono O’odham tribe member who has been putting water in remote desert areas for the past seven years for the benefit of illegal immigrants says he has been told to stop.

The order was given Saturday morning while Mike Wilson was southwest of Sells on the reservation showing 11 non-tribal guests one of the four water stations he operates, Wilson said.

A Tohono O’odham police officer approached Wilson and said the district chairwoman, Veronica Harvey, had instructed her to tell Wilson to take down the water station and escort his guests off the reservation, Wilson said. He didn’t take down the two 55-gallon water barrels but left with his guests, he said.

Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. confirmed Tuesday that Baboquivari District leaders asked Wilson and his guests to leave, but he said he has no knowledge of the request to remove the water station.

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The tribe has a standing decision not to allow humanitarian groups to place water on the reservation. Norris, who became chairman after that decision was made, has said the decision falls to the reservation’s 11 districts because it’s a matter of local concern. He said the same thing about the reported decision to ask Wilson and his guests to leave on Saturday.

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Wilson gave the following account of Saturday’s events:

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Fife, the retired pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church and a leader in the old Sanctuary Movement, doesn’t understand why the Baboquivari District kicked the group off or why it asked Wilson to remove the water station.

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Wilson’s four water stations are in the Baboquivari Valley, which is the deadliest corridor for illegal immigrants in the United States.

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