New York Senator bill would impose tougher sentences on drug smugglers using Indian reservations

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is proposing legislation that would create stiffer prison sentences for drug dealers who sneak their product into the United States through Indian reservations.

Schumer plans to introduce federal legislation that would tack on 10 more years for anyone convicted of using an Indian reservation to smuggle drugs.

The proposed legislation was prompted by the biggest drug bust in upstate New York history, through the Akwesasne Indian Reservation in Northern New York, Schumer said. The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 26 people since February on charges of running a marijuana-trafficking ring that sold between $300 million and $700 million worth of pot over the past 10 years.

Three other Indian reservations abut the U.S. border, according to Schumer’s office. Akwesasne has long been described by federal agents as a sieve for smugglers because it’s the only reservation that straddles the border. Akwesasne is the home of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian tribe.

Schumer said his proposed law would make Indian reservations safer for people who live there and reduce the flow of drugs into New York state.

I wonder though whether the proposed law would just unintentionally ensnare more Indian people and result in much longer sentences for Indian drug smugglers than for non-Indian ones.

An example of that issue is the federal death penalty which has this kind of disparate impact on Indian people. According to my memory of statistics from 1990, while Indians make up only 1% of the U.S. population, they made up about 75% of the people sentenced to death under federal law at that time (due to federal death penalty laws applying primarily only on Indian reservations and federal lands).

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