Navajo lawmakers oppose fugitive bill proposal
South Dakota congresswoman introduces measure
FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation Council delegates have approved a measure to state the tribe's opposition to a federal proposal that would allow law enforcement officials to enter tribal lands in order to apprehend individuals avoiding arrest.
The stance taken by the Navajo Nation comes after U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., introduced H.R. 4864 — or the No Haven for Dangerous Fugitives Act of 2018 — as a way to help law enforcement arrest suspects who flee to tribal lands.
Noem introduced her bill on Jan. 19, and it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations on Jan. 24.
Delegate Edmund Yazzie sponsored legislation that authorized the tribe's opposition, and it was passed by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee on Feb. 22.
Yazzie previously stated he opposed Noem's bill because he believes it violates Navajo sovereignty and ignores the tribe's extradition process.
He also expressed his concerns about the bill to FBI Director Christopher Wray during a visit to Window Rock, Arizona, on Friday, according to a press release from the Office of the Speaker.
"There is a process on the Navajo Nation, and we would like it to be respected," Yazzie said in the release.
The Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee resolution has been finalized, but copies have not been sent to congressional members yet, according to the Speaker's Office.
Brittany Comins, Noem's deputy chief of staff and communications director, said the proposal would apply to both Native Americans and non-Native Americans, and under current law, the federal government can enforce another state's warrants on tribal lands.
She added there is a section of the bill that states federal, state and local governments should respect tribal sovereignty at all times, including engaging in reasonable efforts to reach extradition agreements with tribes.
"That being said, we understand some would like to strengthen this language, and we are open to discussion around that point," Comins said in an email.
She said the office is open to amending the proposal to accommodate tribes that have extradition laws.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.