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Yaqui Indians get special passports

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Yaquis will get IDs for crossing border

by Dennis Wagner - May. 28, 2009 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

The Pascua Yaquis based near Tucson have reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that enrolled members can use special tribal ID cards in lieu of a passport when new document requirements take effect Monday at U.S. border crossings.

Marisela Nuņez, Yaqui enrollment director, said the tribe's estimated 16,000 members can apply for enhanced cards featuring electronic verification of the holder's identity, tribal status and U.S. citizenship.

Beginning June 1, U.S. citizens entering the country from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present a passport or other document recognized under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a program designed to stiffen border security. To date, only a few U.S. Indian tribes have been authorized to use enrollment cards for border entry.

The largest population of Yaquis resides on a reservation near Tucson, about 60 miles from the Mexican border. Other groups are based in satellite communities in Pima and Maricopa counties.

Nuņez said many members maintain close cultural, religious and social ties with the estimated 40,000 Yaquis in Sonora, where the U.S. band originated.