Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, released the following statement on Senate passage of Savanna's Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and co-sponsored by Udall, and the Not Invisible Act of 2019, sponsored by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and co-sponsored by Udall, two bills to combat the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis.
"The missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis is appalling and demands the attention of Congress and the entire nation," Udall said. "Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act are important first steps for improving the federal MMIW response and making Native communities stronger and safer.
"I am glad the Senate was able to work in a bipartisan fashion to get these bills passed, and I look forward to working with the House of Representatives to make sure they both get enacted into law as soon as possible," Udall continued. "To truly tackle the MMIW crisis, Senator McConnell and Republican leadership must stop their partisan attempts to derail a strong reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that includes strengthened provisions for Tribal jurisdiction and respects Tribal sovereignty. The time to act on VAWA reauthorization is long overdue. Indian Country can't afford to wait any longer."
As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Udall has helped lead efforts in Congress to combat violence against Native women by convening oversight hearings and listening sessions to hear from Tribes. Udall has also lead efforts to improve public safety in Indian Country by fighting to restore Tribal criminal jurisdiction and introducing legislation to strengthen law enforcement in Native communities. Last year, Udall cosponsored a resolution designating May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls and led a group of 5 Senate Democrats to call for the Senate to take up the VAWA reauthorization.
Prior to serving as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Udall helped lead the 2013 effort to amend VAWA to restore Tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes committed on reservations, which was instrumental to ensuring that Native women have the same protection from domestic abuse as all other women in the United States. Earlier in his career, he worked to prevent and prosecute domestic violence when he served as New Mexico's attorney general, convening the first statewide roundtable on domestic violence.
Available data from the Department of Justice indicates there are more than 5,000 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and that 55 percent of Native women have experienced domestic violence.
Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act of 2019 previously passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs by voice vote in November 2019. Both bills will now be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
- Requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide training to law enforcement on how to record Tribal enrollment information of MMIW victims in federal databases.
- Mandates that the Attorney General consult with Tribes on how to improve federal databases in light of the MMIW crisis.
- Requires the creation of regional guidelines that federal, Tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies can use to improve response to MMIW cases.
- Requires DOJ to include MMIW data in an annual report to Congress.
The Not Invisible Act of 2019:
- Requires the Department of the Interior's (DOI's) Bureau of Indian Affairs-Office of Justice Services to designate a point person to coordinate violent crime prevention efforts in Native communities across all relevant federal agencies.
- Directs DOI and DOJ to establish a commission composed of relevant federal agencies, Tribal leaders, MMIW survivors, families impacted by MMIW, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations on improving the federal MMIW response.
- Directs DOI and DOJ to submit a formal response to the commission's recommendations to Congress within 90 days of receiving the recommendations