Energy & Environment

Haaland: Missing and murdered natives unit will have six times initial budget of DOJ task force

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Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. Rep. Haaland’s opposition to fracking and early endorsement of the Green New Deal has made her one…

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said a new unit within the department focusing on ­missing and murdered Native Americans will have a budget of $6 million, six times that of a similar task force the Justice Department (DOJ) established in 2019.

In a Tuesday House Budget Committee hearing on the Biden administration’s budget request for fiscal 2022, ranking member Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) said he was “encouraged” by Haaland’s announcement of a unit dedicated to missing and murdered indigenous people within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Haaland praised Operation Lady Justice, the DOJ task force, and said it was initially budgeted at $1 million. The Missing and Murdered Unit, she testified, would have an increased budget of $6 million.

Joyce also asked Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary, for further details on what work the new unit would perform.

“There’s been a lot of engagement across the government — we felt that it was important for this unit to provide the leadership that it needs so everyone is moving in the same direction,” Haaland replied. “The new unit will improve coordination within and outside of the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] to make sure that we’re not missing anything.”

The Interior Department, is “[m]aking a bigger tent to ensure that we’re not missing a thing,” she said. “This is an issue that’s been going on for 500 years since Europeans came to this continent. It’s going to take a lot more effort [and] we’ve started to scratch the surface.”

Haaland announced the creation of the unit on April 1, saying it would build on the work of the DOJ task force and establish a unit chief position to run point on policy.

“Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated,” she said in a statement.

The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women estimates Indigenous women are murder victims at over 10 times the national average. Among American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls from the ages of 10-24, homicide is the third-leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tags Bureau of Indian Affairs Deb Haaland Missing and murdered Indigenous women

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