To: US Department of Justice
Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington , D.C. 20530-0001
Fax Number: 202-307-6777
Re: Request for Policy Statement
Dear Ms. Gupta,
I am writing this request on behalf of thousands of American Indians who have been removed from the Membership Rolls of Federally Recognized Tribes without due process and in violation of their right to equal protection under the law. Many of the decisions to terminate tribal membership have been imposed by Tribal Leaders without the approval of the General Membership of the Tribe, in direct contradiction of the governing documents of their respective Tribes, and motivated by racial bias. This racial bias is compounded by the fact that some of these Tribal Leaders have no Indian ancestry themselves, and would not meet the same standards as these disenrolled Indians, who have endured discrimination and bias from American society, and now face bias and discrimination from within their own tribes.
Tribal Leaders act with impunity due to the protections of sovereign immunity. Many of these leaders claim that the Santa Clara Pueblos v. Martinez Supreme Court decision gives them the right to exclude legitimate tribal members and they have done so, causing egregious harm to the Native Americans who lose their tribal citizenship. This harm extends far beyond the loss of membership in a Federally Recognized Tribe. It means denial of eligibility for federal benefits to help finance education, medical treatment, and even emergency assistance to families in need. It means the loss of land rights, burial rights, and access to benefits provided by the tribe. It means a denial of heritage, and the legacy of their ancestors, and the connection to their culture.
I want to clarify the facts regarding the disenrollments. Disenrollees committed no crime, and in no way compromised their standing within the tribe. The disenrollees did not suddenly stop being American Indians or change in any way. What changed were the Tribal Leaders and their attitude toward certain citizens of their nation. The Tribal Leaders decided arbitrarily and selectively to exclude certain members and targeted them because of their race. They said these members did not belong to the community, that these members did not have the blood of the band, and that these members should never have been enrolled into the Tribe.
Disenrollees do not receive hearings. They do not have the opportunity to face their accusers, present evidence and arguments in their defense, or to be judged by their peers. Disenrollees do not receive equal protection under the law since they have been singled out and placed under a standard that is not applied to other tribal members. Disenrollees face ridicule and derision once their membership is terminated, and they are denied recourse because the Tribal Leaders strip them of citizenship and all their rights under tribal law.
Once disenrollees lose their standing as dual citizens, they must be recognized as U.S. Citizens with the full protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, yet the powers and authorities of the U.S. Government have completely abandoned them. Their rights have been abused, their identities destroyed, and their tribal citizenship has been revoked without just cause, but the BIA refuses to interfere. When they attempt to bring the Tribal Leaders to justice, the Courts claim they empathize but have no jurisdiction, and regularly dismiss complaints filed against Tribal Leaders on grounds of sovereign immunity. The Department of Justice has ignored all requests to investigate, and even refused to acknowledge that there have been civil rights abuses.
Now these U.S. Citizens formally request a Policy Statement from the Department of Justice. Does the DOJ recognize the civil rights of U.S. Citizens who are also Tribal Members, and support their quest for due process, and equal protection under the law? Does the DOJ acknowledge that they have a duty and obligation to protect these U.S. Citizens from the abuse of their civil rights, and to investigate the reported violations just as they would civil rights violations in Ferguson , Mississippi or St. Louis , Missouri ?
Please do not once again ignore the thousands of people who have suffered harm through civil rights abuses. They are U.S. Citizens and are entitled to know what policy and guidelines the Department of Justice has in place to enforce civil rights laws on behalf of Native Americans who face discrimination within their own Tribes.