Members of the Iroquois national lacrosse team in New York City's Times Square, Monday, July 12, 2010.
Good news came Wednesday for the Iroquois lacrosse team waiting in New York City for reassurance the U.S. government would allow them to reenter the country on tribal-issued passports on their return from the international championship tournament in England. The U.S. will let them back in.
The U.S. decision was confirmed by House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) in a statement. An excerpt:
"I am relieved that this bureaucratic technicality has been papered over and these young men can go and do what they have trained to do: play lacrosse and compete on the international scene," Slaughter said.
"Lacrosse is an integral part of the Native American culture and this team deserves the opportunity to travel and play on their terms.
"I am extremely grateful to Secretary of State Clinton, who responded to this glitch promptly and efficiently. Going forward, we must find a way to balance homeland security concerns with some common sense and a border policy that does not create unintended consequences."
This morning, Slaughter received a call from Secretary Clinton where they discussed the case and agreed that the issue ought to be resolved.Slaughter provided the State Department with a list of all the players and their passport numbers.
As we and others have reported, the Iroquois national team has passports issued by tribal authorities which they have used for international travel for decades.
But after 9/11 the State and Homeland Security departments moved towards stricter passport controls, including a requirement for more tamper-proof passports.
The Iroquois passports, low-tech compared with the latest U.S. travel documents, didn't pass federal muster.
The native Americans refused on principal to get U.S. passports even for expediency since they don't view themselves as U.S. citizens but as members of Indian nations.
This all became an issue in the first place because the British refused to issue visas to the Iroquois team members without an assurance that the U.S. would allow the team to re-enter the U.S.
If the Iroquois team can get out Wednesday, they still have a chance of making the lacrosse tournament's Thursday opening.