Murkowski’s Legislation Addressing Crisis of Missing, Murdered, and Trafficked Indigenous People Passes Senate
Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act Advance
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today applauded the unanimous Senate passage of two of her bills to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women. The bills, Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act, are both led by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and aim to combat the epidemic by improving the federal government’s response through increased coordination, development of best practices, and creation of an advisory committee on violent crime.
“The rates of Native women that go missing, that are trafficked or murdered, are staggering, especially compared to other populations. Recognizing that a Native woman may be ten times more likely to become a victim than a non-Native woman is overwhelming, horrifying, and completely unacceptable. I have worked hard to elevate this issue at the local, state, and national level and the momentum we have gained, from tribal communities to the administration, has been significant. I thank my Senate colleagues for recognizing the urgency of the need to improve coordination among law enforcement and provide the necessary resources to protect these women from becoming another statistic,” said Senator Murkowski. “After taking the torch on leading this effort from Senator Heitkamp, I gave her my commitment that we would get these bills across the finish line—that we would get this done for all the women, and children who have been victims of these heinous crimes and whose families are also victims in their own way. Today, we follow through on that promise.”
“For years, grieving Native families and communities have been asking Congress to address the disappearances of their sisters, mothers, and daughters. The Senate is finally heeding their calls by passing these critical bills to improve our response to cases of missing and murdered Native women,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m pleased by today’s progress, and I’ll continue fighting for policies that support the safety and wellbeing of Native communities in Nevada and across the country.”
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 best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Background on Senator Murkowski’s Efforts:
- 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 October of 2019, Murkowski introduced the Alaska Tribal Public Safety Empowerment Act, legislation to empower tribes in Alaska to exercise the special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction on a pilot basis.
- In February of 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 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.
- In January of 2019, Senator Murkowski introduced the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act and the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA) with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tina Smith (D-MN), which build on the Tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). Justice for Native Survivors aims to address sexual violence on Indian reservations by restoring Tribal authority to prosecute cases of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking. NYTOPA reaffirms Tribal authority to prosecute attempted and threatened domestic violence and extends the VAWA 2013 protections to children and law enforcement personnel on Tribal lands.