On Friday, May 20, 2016, JoAnn Rael, Terry Lente and attorney Helen B. Padilla submitted a proposed plan to the Isleta Tribal Council for the prompt enrollment of Isleta quarter-bloods. Their plan offers suggested changes to the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance. The changes would allow persons already classified as “descendants” to be automatically enrolled as tribal members.
However, the Isleta Tribal Council already approved a four (4) phase plan to enroll quarter-bloods. According to Michelle Lujan, Coordinator of the Isleta Enrollment and Census Office, the four (4) phase plan will take up to 7 1/2 years to enroll approximately 1400 quarter-bloods as members.
The Council’s plan was contingent on the federal government certifying the April 6th election results.
On May 17, 2016, the federal government certified the results. However, Governor Eddie Paul Torres and the Isleta Tribal Council have not yet officially notified the Tribe that the results were certified. Nor, have they released the letter from the feds to the Tribe.
Nonetheless, on May 2, 2016, the Council approved a four (4) phase plan to enroll quarter-bloods. The Council’s plan provides:
Phase 1 – Enroll approximately 500 quarters that reside on the rez. Estimated time to complete 2 1/2 years.
Phase 2 – Enroll approximately 400 quarters that reside off the rez in nearby surrounding areas such as Valencia County and Bernalillo County. Estimated time to complete 2 years.
Phase 3 – Enroll approximately 100 quarters that reside throughout NM. Estimated time to complete 1 year.
Phase 4 – Enroll approximately 400 quarters that reside throughout the United States. Estimated time to complete 2 years.
Vice-President Betty Lente made the motion to approve the four (4) phase plan. She made sure not to include language on the estimated time to complete each phase. Fernando Abeita seconded the motion. The motion carried with 4 voting in favor, 2 opposed and 0 abstaining.
Voting in favor: Verna Teller, Betty Lente, Fernando Abeita and Michael Allen Lente; Voting against: Ulysses Abeita and Barbara Sanchez. Abstaining: 0. Frank Lujan was absent.
Despite the Council excluding language on the estimated time, the Council’s plan would still force quarters to wait up to 7 1/2 years before they could be enrolled simply because they do not live on the rez.
In response, JoAnne Rael, Terry Lente and Helen Padilla are raising concerns that the Council’s plan violates the equal protection provisions contained in the Isleta Tribal Constitution and in the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA). In a memo to the Council, they state:
“The residency of new members cannot be used to lengthen the process to enroll descendants, because this treatment of non-local descendants violates equal protection of the law. . . . The tribal government must show a reasonable basis for delaying the prompt enrollment of all new tribal members, and cannot treat an out-of-state descendant differently than one who lives locally.”
Meanwhile, opponents of the constitutional amendment are planning to meet on Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. According to fliers, they will discuss options for challenging the election process. The meeting will be at the “Isleta Rec Center North Soccer Field.”
Many tribal members believe that the election process was unfair. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) conducted the election. People are questioning whether the BIA’s method of notifying tribal members to register was flawed.
The BIA informed tribal members about the election by sending out notices through the mail. The BIA obtained addresses from the Isleta Census and Enrollment Office. However, tribal members complain that they never received a notice from the BIA. This prevented them from registering to vote.
Also, according to BIA regulations, the only persons who may challenge the election are persons who registered to vote. This allows the BIA to simply ignore challenges raised by persons who did not register. This creates questions such as:
Was the BIA’s method of providing notice fair and reasonable?
Are BIA regulations that prohibit challenges from tribal members who did not register valid?
- Feds Dismiss Challenges & Certify Election Results to Lower Isleta’s Blood-Quantum
- 7 1/2 Years for Enrollment of “Descendants” is Unjustified
- 7 1/2 Years to Enroll Quarter-Bloods
- Isleta Tribal Council Gives $2,500 to Renee Torres
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