Funding Package Addresses Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Invests in Prevention, Prosecution, and Cold Case Investigations
A funding bill with new investments secured by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous women is on its way to the President to be signed into law. The Senate yesterday passed two funding bill packages that set federal funding levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which include appropriations bills on Interior-Environment as well as Commerce, Justice, Science. Senator Murkowski is Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
“Turning the tide of this crisis has truly become an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ effort, from legislative initiatives, to tribal support, and as well as a directed focus from the administration. These investments reinforce our commitment to pursuing justice for the many women and girls that have fallen victim to this epidemic and to preventing more sisters, mothers, and daughters from experiencing these horrors,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill package works to improve coordination among law enforcement and provide the necessary resources so that these families—these communities—have hope.”
- Includes $6.5 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a comprehensive look at the issue of MMIW across the BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS), which includes funding for cold case work, background checks, equipment needs, training, and for the IHS regarding forensic training.
- Language is included in both bills (Interior-Environment and Commerce, Justice, Science) directing coordination and data collection among Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement as well as for data sharing, training, and technical assistance to address and prevent violence crime.
- Provides $502.5 million for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs as well as funding for research relating to the incidence of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and violence against Indian women in remote communities underserved by law enforcement resources.
- Encourages the IHS to look at programs which can help educate community health aides on trauma informed care and collecting medical evidence.
- Includes $38 million for Tribal Assistance in State and Local Law Enforcement and $30 million for Tribal Resources under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, an initiative to increase the number of police officers and ensure they are properly trained.
- Includes a five percent set-aside from Victims of Crime Act Fund for Tribes to address services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee last month advanced legislation led by U.S. Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto (D-NV) to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native women. The bills, Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, aim to combat the epidemic by improving the federal government’s response. Savanna’s Act increases coordination among all levels of law enforcement, increases data collection and information sharing, and empowers tribal governments with access to law enforcement databases they need in cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, wherever they occur. The Not Invisible Act engages law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers and improves coordination across federal agencies. The bill designates an official to coordinate efforts across agencies and also establishes a commission of tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
In November 2019, U.S. Attorney General Barr announced the Department of Justice is launching a national strategy to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous persons. The plan places coordinators in multiple U.S. Attorney offices with the goal of developing protocols to improve the ability of law enforcement to address missing person cases, and also invests in training and tools to develop a more comprehensive and effective response process. Also in November, President Trump signed an executive order to create a taskforce to help address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The executive order follows a recent Department of Justice announcement launching a nationwide strategy to respond to the crisis.