Murkowski Asks Attorney General Barr for Commitment on Addressing Violence Against Native Women
Attorney General Barr to Travel to Alaska to Visit Rural Communities
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today called on Attorney General William Barr to work with her on addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and on tribal jurisdictional concerns. Attorney General Barr testified in a Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing examining the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Justice Department. During the hearing, Murkowski raised the issue of protection for Alaska Native Villages in remote areas, and the need to expand tribal jurisdiction.
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“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a chance to bring you up to the state so we can get you out into some of these villages, see how some of these tribal courts are functioning and better explore the opportunities to provide for a level of safety,” said Senator Murkowski. “I do appreciate you for including the five percent set-aside from the Crime Victims Fund. I think that will make a difference.”
During the hearing Senator Murkowski encouraged the Attorney General to support the tribal provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act recently passed by the House. These provisions would expand the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction enacted by Congress, recognizing tribal rights to prosecute non-Natives for a limited number of domestic violence crimes. The House bill would expand the scope of included domestic violence crimes and include crimes against children and crimes against law enforcement officers. The House bill also included a pilot project enabling up to five Alaska tribes to assert Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction in Alaska Native villages whose population is 75% or more Alaska Native. During the hearing Murkowski noted the difficult situation many Alaska Native villages have in addressing high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“I think Alaska Native women face unacceptably high rates of violence in very remote areas and I’ve actually scheduled a trip up to Alaska specifically to visit some of these communities,” Attorney General Barr said. “And so I would appreciate this with a great deal of sympathy for the need to think outside of the box and to do something to protect this vulnerable population and I’m prepared to work with you to try to fashion something that will work.”
Background: As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Murkowski has worked to provide robust funding for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund, specifically for tribal use. Senator Murkowski advocated for the strongest possible VOCA set-aside for Native Communities who disproportionately face violence and often have extremely limited access to services.
Senator Murkowski, a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, has been working to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women through legislative efforts and awareness. In April, Senator Murkowski and Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the Not Invisible Act, legislation aimed at addressing the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native people by engaging law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers and improving coordination across federal agencies. Separately, Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto reintroduced the Savanna’s Act, a bill to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing Native women and girls by improving the federal government's response to addressing the crisis.
Senator Murkowski is a cosponsor of two bills to expand the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction. The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act and the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act.