WASHINGTON, D.C. — President-elect Joe Biden has selected Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to serve as the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary as head of the Department of Interior, the agency that manages and sustains America’s lands, waters, wildlife, and energy resources.
Upon being nominated, Haaland remarked:
“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that one former secretary of the Interior once proclaimed his goal, to quote ‘to civilize or exterminate us.’ I am a living testament of the failure of that horrific ideology.
“I also stand on the shoulder of my ancestors and all the people who sacrificed so that I can be here.”
As a descendant of the indigenous people of America, who were forcibly removed from their land by uncontrolled immigration, Haaland might be expected to support strong immigration controls. However, that is not the case.
In 2018, Haaland was the Democratic nominee for Congress in New Mexico’s First District. During her campaign, she became a leading voice calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In an interview with Yahoo News, Haaland said:
“The more you read about what’s happening, the more YouTube videos you see of ICE arresting people as they’re walking down the street in front of their kids, it just seems like I realized this is not America and this is not how I feel about the way we should be treating our friends and neighbors.”
— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) June 6, 2018
Haaland defeated former New Mexico State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones in to 2018 General Election, receiving 59.1% of the vote and winning three of the district’s’ five counties. Haaland, along with fellow Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas, became the first two Native American women elected to the United States Congress.
Haaland, during an interview with Newsweek, said she viewed defunding ICE as a personal issue for her as a Native American. She said she views ICE’s practices as the same as the state-sponsored violence endured by the Native American community, “torn from their families,” by the U.S. government:
“The story of brutal family separation — of ripping children from their parents’ arms — is as old as America. But we’ve had enough. We can rise above our past. Every human life has value and we cannot allow one rogue agency — under the direction of an immoral president — to terrorize people across America.”
During the same Newsweek interview, Haaland said she would work to see the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “protected and expanded into a permanent solution for children and young people who immigrate to the U.S. with their families.”
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Haaland also expressed her support for sanctuary cities., saying law enforcement should not be involved in “intimidating and targeting hardworking, taxpaying families to advance an agenda of hate and xenophobia” by cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
Haaland also opposed any developments or increases in the Mexico border wall championed by President Trump. She said the proposed wall is “as divisive as the President pushing it.”
As for her nomination as the leader of the Department of Interior, Republicans have been muted in their response thus far. Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-CO), did address conservative distrust around Haaland’s policies:
“Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary nominee, Deb Haaland, supports the Green New Deal and would end America’s energy dominance. Her appointment would be a disaster for our country and economy.”
Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary nominee, Deb Haaland, supports the Green New Deal and would end America’s energy dominance.
Her appointment would be a disaster for our country and economy.
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) December 17, 2020
Despite her strong opposition to immigration enforcement and border control, Haaland has been a vocal advocate for Native American rights, and championed the self-governance of tribal communities. During a February 2020 speech, Haaland said:
“Tribal Self-Governance is among those issues, and after all the centuries of Indian Tribes not having full say over our destinies, it’s time for the US Congress to pass the PROGRESS Act which will provide further self-governance by Indian Tribes and will pave the way for them to manage programs and resources in the most effective ways.
“I know that the Congress and past Administrations have not always done right by our communities, but TODAY, I accept the new call of accountability the US Congress owes to our people.”
— Dan McKay (@mckaydan) July 10, 2018
Haaland has often claimed that Native Americans should have control over their lands and resources. Hailing from the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, she wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in March 2019 attacking the Trump administration and Brazil’s Bolsonaro administration for stripping their native lands:
“Among the many parallels between their administrations, Bolsonaro and Trump are both taking extreme action to strip the hard-earned rights of indigenous peoples to the benefit of extractive industries and commercial farming.
“These policies present threats to our communities, the integrity of ecosystems on our lands and the stability of our climate. Perhaps nowhere is this more concerning than in Raposa Serra do Sol and Bears Ears National Monument, our ancestral homes.”
Haaland supports self-governance and land management for Native Americans, but opposes immigration enforcement to allow the United States to also have self-governance and land management. Republicans are certain to address this paradox in their upcoming confirmation hearings for the post.
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Author: Scott A. Davis