17 Senators and Representatives asked the government’s top watchdog to conduct a review of how federal, state, and tribal agencies respond to MMIW cases.
Over the past six months, both the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples have convened oversight hearings to examine the federal response to the MMIW crisis. Following these hearings, Senator Tester and Representative Gallego introduced the Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act in the Senate (S.336) and House (H.R. 2029) respectively. The bill is now included in the House-passed version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.1585).
In addition, 17 legislators led by Senators Tester, Hoeven, and Udall and Representatives Gallego, Cook, and Grijalva signed a letter asking GAO to conduct a review of law enforcement response to the MMIW crisis. The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska), as well as U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.).
“As Members of the Indian Affairs Committee and the Indigenous Peoples Subcommittee and Senators and Representatives representing the majority of federally recognized Tribes, we must do all we can to fully understand the extent of, and implement meaningful solutions to, the MMIW crisis,” the legislators wrote to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro. “Federal officials, tribal leaders, and members of families directly impacted by the MMIW crisis all agreed that failures in cross-jurisdictional coordination, inadequate MMIW reporting protocols, and poor data collection limit the effectiveness of efforts to track, investigate, and solve MMIW cases.”
The Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act provides a full review by the GAO of how federal agencies respond to reports of missing and murdered Indian persons and recommend solutions based on their findings. Specifically, the GAO’s report should include:
- A review of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies’ jurisdiction over MMIW cases and inter-jurisdictional coordination best practices, as well as recommendations for improving coordination among these organizations.
- A review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal law enforcement agencies’ response policies and procedures regarding MMIW cases and recommendations for improvement.
- A review of the impact that law enforcement staffing levels may have on exacerbating the MMIW crisis or hindering federal, state, local, and tribal MMIW response.
- A review of all federal, state, and local databases relating to missing or murdered Indian persons, along with recommendations for improving access to missing person databases and increasing technical assistance for tribal law enforcement.
- A review of federal, state, and tribal notification systems relating to missing persons, and recommendations for improving and coordinating these systems.
The group of 17 legislators includes U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee respectively, as well as U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).