Murkowski, Cortez Masto Legislation Addressing Crisis of Missing, Murdered, and Trafficked Indigenous People Advances
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) applauded the unanimous House passage of two bills to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous people (MMIP). The bills, Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, are both led by Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto and aim to combat the MMIP epidemic by improving the federal government’s response through increased coordination, development of best practices, and creation of an advisory committee on violent crime. Both pieces of legislation passed the Senate in March of 2020 and will now be heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“The issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women has been a crisis for such a painfully long time. Many tribal advocates and family members of those affected worked so tirelessly on this issue, and I am proud to have worked alongside them to elevate this crisis at the local, state, and national level. The bipartisan action we have seen, from tribal communities to the administration, has been significant. With the Senate’s passage of Savanna’s Act now in both Congressional chambers, we are not just making headway, we are taking the necessary steps to make real, lasting change,” said Senator Murkowski. “Today is a big victory in our fight to provide justice for victims, healing for their families, and protection for women and children across the nation.”
“Earlier this year, the Senate took an important step forward in addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women and girls. I am proud to see the House following suit today by passing Savanna’s Act to give local and Tribal law enforcement the federal resources they need to address this crisis. Today’s vote brings us one step closer to finally acting to protect our Native sisters, mothers and daughters—and to honoring the memory of those taken. The Silver State is home to many Native communities that have long lacked the resources to adequately address this issue, and today’s House passage of Savanna’s Act begins to close that gap,” said Senator Cortez Masto.
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.
“For years, the epidemic of missing, murdered and trafficked Native women and girls has been ignored across the country, And for too long, Congress has failed to address this crisis. Too many Native women and their families have not received justice. That is simply unacceptable. Today’s House passage of my bipartisan Not Invisible Act begins to change that stark reality. By improving coordination where it matters—between the federal government, law enforcement tribal governments and community leaders—we are addressing the root of the problem and getting to work to prevent these tragedies. I thank my colleagues in the House for their work on this important legislation and look forward to the President signing it into law,” said Senator Cortez Masto.
“Too many families have faced unspeakable loss as Native women have gone missing, murdered, or trafficked and were let down by the complex law enforcement systems currently in place to protect them. So many Native people have called on Congress to address the crisis. I also know human trafficking is a horrifying reality across the state of Alaska, and it is disproportionately affecting Alaska Native communities,” said Senator Murkowski. “The Not Invisible Act paves the way for greater collaboration between federal agencies, law enforcement, and elected tribal officials, ensuring Alaska Natives and survivors have a voice in developing methods to end these horrible crimes. Through partnerships, coordination, and pooling resources we can turn the tide of women and girls falling victim to this epidemic.”
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 March of 2020, the Senate unanimously passed Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto’s legislation to combat the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous people by improving the federal government’s response through increased coordination, development of best practices, and creation of an advisory committee on violent crime.
- In February of 2020, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) helped lead a Capitol Hill briefing with U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on ways to increase the safety of Native women and address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. The briefing also covered other topics, including issues for PL 280 states, the implementation of 2013 special jurisdiction, and various pieces of legislation that Senator Murkowski has introduced to improve safety in rural Alaska.
- In January of 2020, the White House task force, Operation Lady Justice, composed of federal officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), held their first meeting.
- 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 is 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.
- 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.
- In November of 2019, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee advanced legislation led by U.S. Senators Murkowski and Cortez Masto (D-NV) to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native women.