Arizona tribe becomes first to issue enhanced security IDs

Flagstaff, Arizona (AP) August 2010

A southern Arizona tribe has become the first to issue identification cards with enhanced federal security features to its members.

The cards will allow members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to enter the United States by land or through a sea port of entry. They were developed after more than a year of consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Pascua Yaqui began issuing the cards on a voluntary basis August 2nd. The tribe’s lands are about 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, and many of its 17,000 members have relatives living on both sides of the border.

The cards meet the requirements of what’s known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – a post Sept. 11, 2001 effort to strengthen U.S. border security. The cards have radio frequency identification technology and allow for the electronic verification of tribal membership, identity and U.S. citizenship.

“This program strengthens an already great relationship with DHS keeping our nation’s security at mind,” tribal Chairman Peter Yucupicio said in a news release. “The Pascua Yaqui Tribe hopes that such a program will enhance the facilitation of ceremonial, family and business travel for our Yaqui members.”

The National Congress of American Indians has said it’s hopeful the use of the secured cards could be expanded to allow tribal members to travel abroad. The comment came as the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team fought to travel to a world championship tournament in England earlier this month on passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy of tribes.

The State Department initially refused to accept the passports because they lacked security features but eventually gave the team a one-time waiver. British officials did not recognize the Iroquois passports as a valid travel document. U.S. Homeland Security officials have said the enhanced tribal identification cards cannot be used in lieu of a federal passport.

Several other tribes, including the Tohono O’odham of Arizona and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, already have or are working toward formal agreements for the development of the IDs.