Bipartisan group proposes legislation to help tribal communities combat violence against Native women

A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill Wednesday to make the federal government give more resources to tribal communities to combat the ongoing and often underreported Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.

The Not Invisible Act seeks to create an overarching federal strategy to address the largely overlooked epidemic of disappearances, homicide and violence targeting indigenous people. The bipartisan bill would establish an advisory committee of local, tribal and federal partners that would make recommendations to the Department of the Interior and Department of Justice on how to best direct federal resources to tackle the problem.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America MORE (R-Alaska), who has introduced legislation aimed at combatting violence against Native American women in the past, co-sponsored the legislation along with Sens. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoLife in the minority at the FCC Dem senators call for Trump to restore release for pregnant migrants Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker MORE (D-Nevada) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE (D-Mont.).

“Human trafficking is a horrifying reality across the state of Alaska and is disproportionately affecting our Alaska Native communities,” Murkowski said in a statement. “This legislation paves the way for greater collaboration between federal agencies, law enforcement, and elected tribal officials, ensuring Alaska Natives 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 sex trafficking,” Murkowski added. “I am proud to work with Senator Cortez Masto to build upon our efforts to shine a spotlight and address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and drive legislation that will help end human trafficking of our American Indian and Alaska Native populations once and for all." 

“A lack of communication and coordination between the federal government and tribal communities in cases involving missing, murdered, and trafficked indigenous women has slowed law enforcement and delayed justice,” Tester also said in a statement.

“We have to do better addressing this crisis, and this bipartisan bill gives the tribal, local, and state leaders - the folks who understand it best - a seat at the table to work the federal agencies to more effectively combat it,” he continued.

According Murkowski’s office, more than 80 percent of Native men and women will experience violence in their lifetimes, while 35 percent of Native women will experience sexual violence or assault.

If passed, the Not Invisible Act would make the federal government step up its efforts in improving the tracking and reporting of data on instances of missing persons, murder and human trafficking of indigenous people, especially Native women and girls — who are disproportionately likely to become victims of sex trafficking.

"In addition to aiming to improve tracking and reporting, the goal is to identify gaps in services for victims of trafficking, better coordinate grants, preventions efforts and programs related to the murder of, trafficking of and missing Indians, to provide culturally relevant training to tribal law enforcement, community members and businesses, to identify legislative solutions, staffing shortages and a host of other issues," a spokesperson for Murkowski’s office said in statement to The Hill on Wednesday.

"In short, it is an attempt to coordinate a comprehensive effort, not just for data collection but an integrated response to the problem," the representative added.