Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement during the markup of H.R. 2438, the Not Invisible Act of 2019:
"H.R. 2438, the 'Not Invisible Act of 2020,' would address the crisis of violence, especially sexual violence, committed against Native American and Alaska Native men and women in two concrete ways—by directing the appointment, within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, of a coordinator of federal efforts to combat violence against Native people and by establishing a Commission on Reducing Violent Crime Against Indians.
"For decades, Native American and Alaska Native communities have struggled with high rates of assault, abduction, and murder of women. Community advocates describe the crisis as a legacy of generations of government policies promoting forced removal, land seizures and violence inflicted on Native peoples.
"Advocates and victims’ families also complain—and rightly so—that the investigation and monitoring of disappearances and killings of members of their communities have gotten lost in bureaucratic gaps generated by a system that lacks clarity on whether local or federal agencies should investigate. The federal government must address these problems.
"The statistics on violence in Native American communities are staggering. More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, including 56.1 percent who have experienced sexual violence. American Indian and Alaska Native men also have high victimization rates, with 81.6 percent having experienced violence in their lifetime. This problem is, in large part, the result of decades of neglect by the federal government.
"This crisis has particularly affected Native American women, scores of whom have gone missing and have been found murdered. Recently, these women’s stories have begun to be told to a wider audience. But these stories are not new. And it is long overdue that we address them.
"The Not Invisible Act of 2020 is an important step for the federal government in finding an adequate response to the problem of violence against Native Americans. By making a permanent position within the BIA that reports directly to the Secretary of the Interior—and who will submit an annual report to Congress—we will significantly improve the federal response to combatting violence in Native communities.
"Significantly, this bill also directs the BIA coordinator to take into consideration the unique challenges faced by Native American communities—both on and off Tribal lands—and to work in cooperation with outside organizations to train Tribal law enforcement, Indian Health Service care providers and other Tribal community members on identifying, responding to, and reporting on cases of missing persons, murder, and human trafficking.
"And for two years, a Joint Commission on Reducing Violent Crimes Against Indians will be tasked with preparing recommendations on concrete actions the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice can take to help combat violent crimes against Native Americans and on Native American lands. These include the development and implementation of strategies for identifying, reporting and responding to instances of missing persons, murder, and human trafficking; tracking and reporting relevant data; and increasing prosecutions in this neglected arena. These are long-overdue critical measures.
"It is well past the time to help rectify these problems and I am pleased that H.R. 2438 will go a long way in that process. I commend Representative Debra Haaland for her leadership and her efforts in developing this legislation.
"I urge all of my colleagues to join me in support of this bill today."