Saturday, January 19, 2008
The Seattle Times reports on a fascinating immigration case from the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday, a government attorney told an immigration judge that a Canadian citizen claiming indigenous treaty rights to the U.S. lacks sufficient Indian blood to qualify for those rights. Peter Roberts, a 54-year-old dentist from British Columbia, claims he is one-half Campbell River Indian (with a full blooded Indian father and a white mother) and is thus entitled to live and work in the U.S. and pass freely across its borders under the Jay Treaty. An attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the immigration judge that a document Roberts' paternal grandmother submitted to immigration officials decades ago indicates that her own father was 100 percent Irish, meaning Roberts' father could be only 50 percent native (and Roberts only 25% Indian). Roberts' attorney said it was not uncommon for some Indians decades ago to deny their lineage to avoid discrimination (a phenomenon known in other circles as "passing") and that Campbell River band documents issued to Roberts show he is in fact 50 percent native Canadian. A full hearing in the case was set for March 28.
The Jay Treaty among other things resulted in the British abandoning forts in the Pacific Northewest and allowed for freer trade between England and the United States. Article III declared the right of aboriginal peoples (people indigenous to Canada and the United States) to trade and travel between the United States and Canada, which was then a territory of Great Britain. This right was restated in Immigration & Naturalization Act § 289, 8 U.S.C. § 1359: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the right of American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States, but such right shall extend only to persons who possess at least 50 per centum of blood of the American Indian race."