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Schatz, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

Legislation Includes Strong Tribal Provisions to Keep Native Women, Children, Families Safe
Feb 10, 2022
Public Safety & Law Enforcement

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, released the following statements on introduction of their bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA) in the Senate.

 

“Nearly a decade ago, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 restored Tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes, recognizing Tribes’ right to exercise their authority and giving them resources to go after criminals,” said Chairman Schatz. “Yesterday’s introduction makes clear the Senate is serious about strengthening this important law, protecting Native women, children, and families, and restoring justice for Native communities. I am proud of the contributions Committee members made to strengthening the Tribal title and grateful for my bipartisan partnership with Vice Chairman Murkowski. I look forward to seeing this legislation passed into law.”

 

“Native communities, particularly in Alaska, have faced horrific levels of domestic violence, sexual assault, and related crimes due to jurisdictional complexity and lack of resources. Since the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, certain Tribes in the Lower 48 that have implemented the Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction have been able to hold perpetrators of domestic violence crimes accountable. This bipartisan legislation will build on VAWA 2013 by closing gaps in the law to protect Native people. It also includes an Alaska pilot program which provides a targeted solution to empower tribal courts in a way that recognizes the unique and complex jurisdictional landscape in my state. I am proud to have partnered with Chairman Schatz to respond to Tribal leaders in developing the tribal title included in the VAWA. This legislation will have a transformational impact in Native communities across the country,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski.

 

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 reflects years of input on public safety from stakeholders in Tribal, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities and will increase access to federal resources and data for Native communities. The bipartisan bill contains a Tribal title based on a Committee discussion draft Schatz and Murkowski released in December, which—

  • Maintains Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of dating violence, domestic violence, and violations of Tribal civil protection orders first put in place by the 2013 VAWA reauthorization; 
  • Restores Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of child violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, obstruction of justice, and assault of Tribal justice personnel committed by non-Indians offenders;
  • Ensures all Tribes, including those in Alaska and Maine, can exercise these same important jurisdictional tools to keep their communities safe; and
  • Provides Tribes with improved access to critical VAWA implementation resources by—
    • increasing the authorization level of the VAWA Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction implementation grant program,
    • expanding the VAWA Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction implementation grant program to cover Tribes’ reimbursements costs,
    • reestablishing the Bureau of Prisons Tribal Prisoner Program, and
    • codifying the Department of Justice’s Tribal Access Program to provide Tribes with access to national criminal information databases.

 

A section-by-section of the VAWA Tribal title is available here.

 

Last December, Schatz and Murkowski convened a VAWA oversight hearing to hear from Tribal leaders and legal experts on the importance of the 2013 VAWA reauthorization and next steps to further enhance public safety in Native communities.

 

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