President-elect Donald Trump rolled back some of his support over the weekend for a concrete border wall along the entire United States-Mexico frontier. But even if Trump wanted to carry out his original plan, a Native American tribe in Arizona could ensure that a 75-mile hole remains in the fence — and a tribal leader told news outlets Monday they plan to do just that.
“Over my dead body will a wall be built,” Verlon Jose, the vice chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona, told local NPR affiliate KJZZ. “I don’t wish to die, but I do wish to work together with people so we can truly protect the homeland of this place they call the United States of America. Not only for our people but for the American people."
Seventy-five miles of land along the Mexico border technically belong to the Tohono O’odham Nation, which according to its website includes 28,000 people and occupies 2.8 million acres. In this case, the tribe's reservation spans a particularly difficult portion of the border that has an unforgiving climate and sharp mountains that would make building a wall there logistically tough. As such, Jose told KJZZ he invites the future president to visit and check it out.
The Tohono O’odham Nation would legally have leverage to fight against a Trump wall, as the Bureau of Land Management must consult the tribal governments before changing land use policy, according to the Huffington Post. If the tribal government rejects the new use of its land, Congress would need to pass a stand-alone bill to condemn the tracts of land for the wall.
However, recent comments may indicate the wall — one of Trump's central campaign promises — could be up for interpretation anyway after inauguration.
Trump said during CBS News’ “60 Minutes” Sunday that his wall would actually more likely consist of fencing instead of a giant concrete wall. Trump also elaborated on his plans to deport immigrants during that interview, saying he would first focus on undocumented immigrants in the country with criminal records.