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News Release

Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras / Indigenous Alliance Without Borders

The Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders has released a “Know Your Rights” manual related to the rights of American Indians and Indigenous community members while crossing the United States-México border for tribal, cultural, or family reasons. The Handbook on Indigenous Peoples’ Border Crossing Rights Between the United States and Mexico will serve as an accessible resource guide for tribal peoples wishing to cross tribal members between the United States-México border.

There are currently seven Indigenous Peoples whose territories and ancestral lands are divided by the United States-México border or who have tribal members on both sides of the borders; all have legal rights of passage to access and cross the border: the Pascua Yaqui / Yoeme, the Tohono O’odham, the Cocopah / Cucapá, the Kumeyaay / Kumiai, the Pai Pai, Apaches, and the Kickapoo / Kikapú. The Indigenous Alliance Without Borders/Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras, is a 22-year-old Indigenous rights organization based in Tucson, Arizona. With members who are from tribal nations whose original territories preceded the establishment of the United States or Mexico or whose members have the legal right to traverse these borders, such as the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Alianza has worked for more than two decades to educate and raise awareness about the rights of mobility and passage of Indigenous communities. The manual details the processes for crossing the border, procedures for obtaining required documents for crossing, what to expect, how to file complaints if Indigenous border crossing rights are violated, and possible avenues for future recognition of Indigenous rights related to the subject.

According to the Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras website: The Handbook on the Indigenous Peoples’ Border Crossing Rights Between The United States and Mexico, presents a basic framework and outline for an initial reference when addressing the movement of Indigenous Peoples across the US-Mexico border. The movement of Indigenous Peoples across political borders has been restricted, prohibited, or otherwise limited in an unprecedented, and at times, militaristic fashion, especially along the Arizona-Sonora border, as detailed in the Handbook Introduction. Traditional crossing areas have been eliminated or curtailed, and the act of crossing, even at Ports of Entry, has become a point of vulnerability or peril, and even within traditional lands. Cultural, social and spiritual rights, along with customs and rituals, have been violated and/or interrupted. Thus, the ancient right to move, and live within the nations’ own lands, has been seriously disrupted.

The manual was a longtime dream of the late Elder and Pascua Yaqui ceremonial leader José Matus, who passed away suddenly in 2017. José was one of the first Native leaders to negotiate the rights of mobility and passage of tribal members in southern Arizona. The manual reflects some of his key ideas related to the rights of mobility and passage of Native peoples. He was often called upon to negotiate the passage of Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham ceremonial leaders, traditional healers and tribal members.

The Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras was formed in 1997 after a gathering of Indigenous community members, who came together to share experiences of Indigenous communities who were impacted by the militarization of the United States-México border. These community members and elders recognized the need for the voices and experiences of Indigenous communities in the continued debate and rhetoric around border security and immigration. Often ignored are the experiences of Indigenous community members, who were not consulted about the militarization that literally cut through their homes and ancestral lands. Indigenous community members continue to report issues of discrimination and abuse at the hands of border officials. This manual serves to create a common language around Indigenous border crossing, and understanding of the processes and procedures it entails, and the rights of Indigenous community members in asserting their right to cross the border free from discrimination and abuse.

The manual was authored by Dr. Christina Leza, associate professor at Colorado College, and the Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras. The manual draws from legal, academic, and community sources and is based on research conducted over several years. Dr. Leza states, “While there is no replacement for a resource for like José Matus and other Indigenous elders who have applied their knowledge to ensure the border crossing rights of Indigenous Peoples, I hope that this manual will help continue the critical Indigenous rights work done by leaders like Elder Matus.” The manual will continue to be updated as needed to provide the best resource for Indigenous communities that seek to maintain connections with their people’s members across the United States-México border.

For more information on the manual, contact Dr. Leza at 719-389-6131;

The manual may be accessed on the Alianza website at

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