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Old 03-19-2006, 04:32 AM   #1
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BIA Grant To Help Akwesasne Combat Border Drug Smuggling

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This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
Doctrine Of International Copyright Law:
_http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html_
(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html)
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FROM: INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY NEWSPAPER

_http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096412679_
(http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096412679)

BIA Grant To Help Akwesasne Combat Border Drug Smuggling

(javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: March 17, 2006 by: _Shannon Burns_
(http://www.indiancountry.com/author.cfm?id=602) / Today correspondent

_Click to Enlarge_ (http://www.indiancountry.com/pix/1096412679_large.jpg)
(http://www.indiancountry.com/pix/1096412679_large.jpg) Photos by
Shannon Burns -- St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Chief Andrew Thomas. Bottom photo
-- Ice bridges across the 12-mile U.S./Canada border in the winter months
create a problem for police as they try to combat illegal smuggling through
the Akwesasne community. The BIA's Office of Law Enforcement Services awarded
the tribe's police department a $263,000 grant which will be used to hire and
train additional officers. AKWESASNE, N.Y. - The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe,
which has long battled the problems of smuggling in its border community,
received a helping hand from the BIA in March. The BIA's Office of Law Enforcement
Services awarded the tribe's police department a $263,000 grant to fight drug
use, violent crime, and drug and human smuggling.

The news couldn't have come at a better time.

In February, The New York Times published an article about drug smuggling in
Indian country (''Drug Traffickers Find Haven in Shadows of Indian
Country'') and referred to the Akwesasne community as ''the black hole'' used by
criminals to transport drugs from Canada to the United States. In response, the
tribe defended its efforts to combat crime in the community and argued that its
tribally funded police force receives little funding from the federal
government to defend the border.

''As the article's author, Sarah Kershaw, pointed out, our law enforcement-
and border security-related efforts receive little or no federal Homeland
Security funding due to a quirk in the law which severely limits tribes from
securing these resources,'' the tribe said in February. ''This is the real
''black hole'' that exists for our community. We continue to work with Congress to
correct this inequity, but in the meantime, our tribe is absorbing the cost
of the United States' border security responsibility. Indeed, our tribe is
working above and beyond our call of duty to address these law enforcement
challenges.''

On March 3, the OLES issued a letter to the tribe awarding the funding.

''OLES acknowledges the dedication and hard work done by the St. Regis
Mohawk Tribal Police Department,'' wrote Christopher Chaney, deputy bureau
director. ''Law enforcement officers literally put their lives on the line every day
at work and their sacrifices and public service help make our nation a much
safer place.''

According to Brendan White, the tribe's director of public information, the
funds will be used to hire three or four additional police officers to patrol
the 12-mile U.S./Canada border that runs through Akwesasne. The grant, as
outlined, is to be used during the 2006 fiscal year.

''The tribe has always stated that more funding is needed in order for the
tribal police to do their job effectively,'' White said. ''Nearly half of the
15-member police department's time is spent on border enforcement, which can
increase to around 80 percent in the winter season. Spending time on border
enforcement takes them away from other public safety needs, so there is
clearly a need for even more officers.''

Akwesasne lies partly in northern New York and partly in the Canadian
provinces of Ontario and Quebec, making issues of border-crossing and policing
complex. During the winter months, the rivers running through the territory
freeze, creating ice bridges that enable Akwesasne Mohawks to cross freely from
Canada to the United States without inspection. The frozen waters, though
merely a convenience for commuters, creates a problem for police as smugglers move
goods back and forth across the invisible border as well.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department is responsible for patrolling
the area of Akwesasne that lies on the U.S. side of border. The Akwesasne
Mohawk Police Service has jurisdiction over the Canadian portions of the
territory.

The tribe submitted an application to the OLES in early February and
received the award letter in early March. Although they received less than what
they'd asked for, according to White, ''the amount that was received will provide
additional manpower dedicated to border enforcement and drug smuggling.''

Chief of Police Andrew Thomas has remained committed to combating the
drug-smuggling trade in Akwesasne.

''The role of our tribal police is essential in enforcing the international
border and protecting our community against criminal activities,'' Thomas
said. ''The money addresses a portion of funding needed in order for our police
department to effectively respond as a first line of defense against illegal
border crossings and drug smuggling.''

Congress appropriated funds to the OLES for FY 2006 specifically to address
crime and offset the costs faced by under-funded police agencies in Indian
country. The funds were signed into law by President Bush in September 2005.

In his letter to the tribe, Chaney said he performed a ''careful analysis
involving every Indian country law enforcement program in the United States''
before deciding to award them $263,000. He asked the tribe, in return, to
submit crime statistics and budget information to his department.

Though it's uncertain if future funding will be available from the OLES, the
tribe has an alternative plan to receive federal funding for the border
patrol work of its police department. According to White, the SRMTPD has been
chosen as one of 20 tribal police forces to participate in a pilot program and
receive funding from the Department of Homeland Security under new federal
legislation that has yet to be approved.

''Until that funding is available, the majority of the tribal police
department's funding will still come from revenues the tribe collects from tribal
businesses,'' White said. ''Diverting tribal revenue to law enforcement,
however, takes away needed funding for other community services and programs.''
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