Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
On March 15th, as a part of the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, President Biden signed into law a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The reauthorization comes over three years after the expiration of VAWA's last authorization. After sustained advocacy across Indian Country, USET SPF celebrates the enactment of this historic legislation which better recognizes our inherent sovereignty and makes significant advancements in the fight against violent crime in Indian Country, as well as our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States.
"USET SPF member Tribal Nations envision a future in which our children, women, elders, and all Native people can live in healthy, just, vibrant communities free of violence," said USET SPF President, Kirk Francis. "With the 2022 Reauthorization of VAWA, and its reaffirmation of our sovereign authority to prosecute those who harm our citizens, we are closer than ever to making this a reality. We extend our sincere gratitude to VAWA's champions on Capitol Hill and in the Biden Administration for making this a priority."
The bill contains several long-sought Tribal provisions including:
- Reaffirmation of Tribal criminal jurisdiction in crimes against children and law enforcement, as well as sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking;
- Clarification that all Tribal Nations in Maine can exercise Special Tribal criminal jurisdiction under VAWA;
- An increase in resources for Tribal Nations to exercise Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction and the establishment of a reimbursement program to cover Tribal costs;
- A requirement that non-Indian defendants exhaust all Tribal court remedies before appealing to federal court;
- Reauthorization of funding for and amending the Tribal Access Program, to ensure that all Tribal Nations can access national crime information systems for criminal justice and non-criminal justice purposes; and
- Permanency for the 2010 Bureau of Prisons Tribal Prisoner Program and allowing Tribal Nations to place offenders in federal facilities that are sentenced to one year or more.
As we previously alerted, the bill's Tribal title is the product of a discussion draft circulated in December 2021 by Sens. Murkowski and Schatz. USET SPF submitted testimony for the record of SCIA's December 8th hearing on VAWA Title IX in which we expressed support for the discussion draft, while noting that many of our other member Tribal Nations are subject to restrictive settlement acts that states may use to challenge the full application of VAWA and other laws. USET SPF also testified at a 2019 Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing on Tribal public safety in which we supported many of these same provisions.
As sovereign governments, Tribal Nations have a duty to protect our citizens, and provide for safe and productive communities. USET SPF lauds the 2022 reauthorization of VAWA as it represents a major step in the right direction toward the United States recognizing Tribal Nations’ inherent sovereign rights and authorities. We continue to call for a the full restoration of criminal jurisdiction to our governments through a fix to the Supreme Court decision in Oliphant and will provide additional updates as the implementation of VAWA proceeds.
For more information, please contact Liz Malerba, USET SPF Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at email@example.com.