Indian Affairs Committee Moves Two Tester Bills to Combat MMIW Crisis to Senate Floor

Senator’s Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act aim to address crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

In his ongoing effort to fight the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today successfully pushed his Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act through the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which would bolster law enforcement responses to MMIW cases and improve collaboration between Tribes, law enforcement, and the federal government.

“Native American women, girls, and families should be safe in their homes and in their communities,” said Tester. “Effective data collection, better training of law enforcement, and improved communication between Tribes and federal agencies would help Tribal communities better address the MMIW crisis. I urge Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring these desperately-needed bills to the Senate floor for a vote immediately, because sitting on our hands isn’t an option when lives are at stake.”

Indigenous women and girls in Montana face murder rates that are ten times higher than the national average, and, according to the National Institute of Justice, more than 80 percent of Native American women have experienced violence, and half have experienced it within the last year.

The Tester-backed bills work to improve public safety in Indian Country by:

Savanna’s Act

This bill would improve information sharing between Tribal and federal law enforcement agencies and increase data collection on cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous people. It requires

  • Law enforcement training on how to record victim tribal enrollment information in federal databases;
  • The creation of standardized, regionally-appropriate guidelines for inter-jurisdictional cooperation on cases; and
  • The Attorney General to include data on missing and murdered Indigenous people in an annual report to Congress.

Not Invisible Act

  • Requires the Department of Interior (DOI) to designate a coordinator within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (OJS) to coordinate violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies who must submit an annual report summarizing coordination activities and recommendations for improving federal coordination efforts; and
  • Directs DOI and the Department of Justice to establish a commission composed of relevant federal agencies, Tribal leaders, Tribal law enforcement, mental health providers, survivors, and state and local law enforcement to develop recommendations on improving the federal response to MMIW, human trafficking, and violent crime in Indian Country.

As a member and former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester has led the charge in the fight against the MMIW crisis. Earlier this year, Tester pushed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to approve five bills focused on addressing violence against women in Indian Country. In addition to Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, the Committee also considered the Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act and two bills to increase certain Tribes’ ability to prosecute domestic violence and sexual assault crimes.

Tester also delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling for more legislative action to address the crisis and pressed BIA officials on what the agency has done to improve its response to cases of violence against women. In May, he led a bipartisan letter and successfully petitioned the Government Accountability Office to study how federal law enforcement agencies can better respond to and investigate MMIW crimes.

Tester is calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Leadership to bring up and pass the 2019 Violence Against Women Act to ensure that Tribes have the authority to bring perpetrators to justice and provide survivors with the resources they need.

More information on Tester’s work to combat the MMIW crisis is available HERE.