Two unofficial Indian tribes have sold thousands of memberships to illegal immigrants with the promise that the paperwork will make them legal. Some buyers have reported paying as much as $1,200 for the memberships, which federal officials warn don't offer any protection from deportation. "You can't just decide to become a member and legalize your status," said an immigration spokeswoman.
An immigrant couple already has been indicted for trying to get US passports by claiming tribal membership. The tribes, the Kansas-based Kaweahs and North Dakota's Pembina Nation Little Shell, aren't federally recognized to begin with. Little Shell never completed the application process, and the Kaweah were denied recognition because it's not a real tribe.