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Letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives - Newhouse Leads Call to House Leadership: Pass Bipartisan MMIW Legislation Before August Recess

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

We write to you today to request immediate action on legislation to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. Native American and Alaska Native women face a murder rate ten times higher than the national average, with eighty-four percent experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime. Despite this disturbing and persisting trend, there is still no reliable way of knowing how many indigenous women go missing each year or whose fate hangs in the balance of an unsolved murder case. This is unacceptable.

As the House of Representatives reconvenes for legislative business, we urge you to bring legislation we have introduced and supported to address this crisis before the full House for consideration. These legislative proposals enjoy broad bipartisan support as evidenced by H.R. 2733, Savanna's Act, and H.R. 2438, the Not Invisible Act, passing unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee in March.

Each of our congressional districts are impacted by unsolved murder cases or missing person reports from native communities. We have heard the outcries from families and loved ones of these indigenous women, and we are working to -- finally -- begin addressing this issue. In order to do so, we need your support and action.

With the goal of improving collaboration between local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement agencies, these pieces of legislation will go a long way to empower our native communities, ensure law enforcement officers have the tools they need to solve cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, and finally deliver justice to the families and loved ones who have been waiting for answers for far too long.

We should not leave commonsense legislation addressing our most vulnerable populations off of the House calendar. Thus, we respectfully request that this important legislation be brought up for consideration in July. These bipartisan bills will give law enforcement and the communities they serve the tools to finally understand and address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and put an end to a decades long crisis that affects native communities throughout our country.

Background:

On May 14, 2019, Rep. Newhouse joined Reps. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) to introduce Savanna's Act, a bill that aims to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) across the country. The bill develops guidelines and best practices for law enforcement agencies across the country, improves coordination between law enforcement agencies, and enhances reporting, record keeping, and communication for law enforcement and families of victims.

Since the bill's introduction, Rep. Newhouse has continued to urge Congress to act and pass legislation to provide relief to Native communities. In October, he hosted an hour-long bipartisan call-to-action on the House floor. Click here to watch remarks by Rep. Newhouse and his colleagues.

Later that month, Rep. Newhouse arranged meetings with House leadership for two Yakama Nation leaders, then-Chairman Jode Goudy and Councilwoman Samm, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to express the impact the MMIW crisis was having on local communities and to discuss the importance of passing legislation like Savanna's Act.

Savanna's Act was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. While House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-CA) did not meet with the delegation, Rep. Newhouse and the Yakama Nation leaders met with Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) of the House Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples, and Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Following the announcement of the Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or Operation Lady Justice, Rep. Newhouse invited Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney to Central Washington to hear firsthand from tribal leaders. The group discussed how federal actions and legislation would help Native communities more effectively investigate crimes and deliver justice to the loved ones of these women. Click here to read more about the meeting in the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Last month, Rep. Newhouse convened a similar meeting, inviting U.S. Attorney Bill Hyslop to meet with local, state, and tribal law enforcement officers and discuss the challenges they face in curbing the disproportionately high murder and violence rates against Native American women. At this meeting, Rep. Newhouse discussed how Savanna's Act would aid law enforcement agencies to track findings and more effectively investigate cases of MMIW. The U.S. Attorney also announced Operation White Swan, a federal effort that aims to curb violence on the Yakama Nation reservation.

On March 11, Savanna's Act passed through the House Judiciary Committee unanimously. Rep. Newhouse issued a statement of support.


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