Senator Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has pulled her bill creating new penalties for trespassing on tribal lands. She pulled SB 331 late Monday, reportedly at requests of the sponsors, the Barona Band of Mission Indians.
“The Barona Tribe had some concerns,” said Russell Lopez, Romero’s communications director. “That’s why we pulled it.”
For the second straight week, Romero had the bill removed from its scheduled Tuesday morning hearing in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Rather than have the committee hear it next week, Lopez said that she will enter discussions with interested parties. If they can come up with satisfactory amendments, he said, she will likely revive it later this year or sometime next year.
The bill allows tribes to issue citations for $250 for a first instance of trespassing and $500 for a second offense. According to Romero’s office, the bill was intended to address longstanding law-enforcement issues on tribal lands. Many reservations are in rural areas where law enforcement response times can be slow.
But the bill has become a flashpoint for a small but committed group of activists who said that such a law could be used by tribes against their own disenrolled members. In recent years, hundreds of people have been removed from tribal membership rolls. Many of them still live on reservations or other tribal lands, or have friends and relatives who do.
“Hopefully [the decision to delay the bill] was because of what we did to educate them on some of these issues,” said activist John Gomez. “There was a lot of conflict over this bill.”
Gomez is one of about 400 people dis-enrolled from the Pechanga tribe since 2004. The tribe has said that he and the others were rejected after a standard, thorough examination of his tribal credentials.
But he and Robert Edwards, who was dis-enrolled from the Enterprise Rancheria in 2003, have become the most visible leaders in a growing movement of former tribal members. They claim tribal
dis-enrollments have risen sharply since the advent of tribal gaming in California. The pair have been leading a letter-writing campaign, seeking to oppose the bill and to draw politicians attention to the dis-enrollment issue.
According to federal law, tribes have the sole authority to determine who is and is not a member. For this reason, activists have focused their efforts on areas where tribes interact with state and federal government–for instance, on compacts or legislation, or at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which must certify tribal elections.
The Barona tribe did not respond to a request for comment.