Murkowski Applauds Administration’s Actions to Address MMIW Crisis
Cold Case Task Force Office for Missing and Murdered Natives Coming to Anchorage
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded the establishment of seven Cold Case Task Force offices across the nation, dedicated to solving cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. This week marked the opening of an office in Bloomington, Minnesota with an office scheduled to open in Anchorage, Alaska next month, on August 27. Other nationwide offices include: Rapid City, SD; Billings, MT, Albuquerque, NM, and Phoenix, AZ.
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“Addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is going to take all of us to make lasting change. I applaud the administration for the importance placed on this issue—helping us move beyond awareness to action by working to advance initiatives to turn the tide on this crisis. It has truly become an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ effort at all levels of government,” said Senator Murkowski. “These Cold Case Task Force offices are possible because of the funding we worked to include in the 2020 omnibus appropriations bill. Our hope is that they lead to providing justice for the victims and healing for their families. Every step forward is a step in the right direction.”
In November of 2019, U.S. Attorney General Barr announced the Department of Justice would launch a national strategy to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Following that announcement, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to establish Operation Lady Justice, a task force to help address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The task force held its first meeting in January of 2020.
Background on Murkowski’s Efforts:
- On March 11, 2020, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, both led by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). The bills are now before the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
- Savanna’s Act, sponsored by Senator Murkowski and co-led with Senator Cortez Masto, improves coordination among all levels of law enforcement, increases data collection and information sharing, and empowers tribal governments with access to the necessary law enforcement databases in cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, wherever they occur. The legislation, originally introduced by former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota with Murkowski as a cosponsor, is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and killed in 2017 in Fargo, North Dakota.
- Not Invisible Act, sponsored by Senator Cortez Masto and co-led with Senator Murkowski, improves engagement among law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers. The bill also designates an official to coordinate efforts across agencies and establishes a commission of tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on combating the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
- In February 2020, Senator Murkowski introduced the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2020, which would prevent the human trafficking and exploitation of children by providing grants critical for training students, parents, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking.
- In addition to legislative efforts, Senator Murkowski has worked as an appropriator to secure funding to address the crisis. In December of 2019, the President signed into law a funding package which included for the first time, funding secured by Senator Murkowski to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous women. Specifically, $6.5 million was provided for cold case efforts, a portion of which will be used for the Cold Case Task Force Offices. Language was also included for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a comprehensive look at the issue across the BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS), which includes funding for cold case work, background checks, equipment needs, training, and a directive for the IHS regarding forensic training. The bill also includes language directing coordination and data collection among Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement.