The Senate Judiciary Committee Considers VAWA Reauthorization, Including Expansion of Tribal Jurisdiction, as Negotiations Continue

It had been practically seven months for the reason that Home of Representatives launched laws to reauthorize the Violence Towards Girls Act (“VAWA”) when, on October 5, 2021, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a listening to to think about the matter. On the listening to, Deputy Legal professional Normal Lisa Monaco testified to the significance of passing laws to modernize and enhance VAWA to raised shield underserved populations, together with Native People. She additionally famous the function of VAWA in addressing the disaster of lacking and murdered Indigenous ladies and the significance of increasing Tribal jurisdiction to empower Tribes to guard their communities from home and sexual violence. 

As famous in our Summer 2021 Native Affairs Quarterly, H.R. 1620 contains an growth of VAWA’s particular home violence felony jurisdiction (SDVCJ) for all Tribal governments, together with Alaska Native Tribes. That particular jurisdiction affirms the inherent authority of Tribes to train home violence jurisdiction over sure defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian standing. The provision is significant to enhancing the flexibility of Tribes to answer incidents of home violence of their communities. As a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) extinguished most Indian nation in Alaska, and since VAWA expressly ties a Tribe’s means to train SDVCJ to Indian nation, most Alaska Tribes are at present ineligible to train the particular jurisdiction. H.R. 1620 would start to right that disparity by increasing the definition of “Indian country” for functions of a VAWA pilot venture to incorporate Alaska Native-owned Townsites, Allotments, and former reservation lands acquired in payment by Alaska Native Village Firms pursuant to ANCSA, and different lands transferred in payment to Native Villages. The definition would additionally apply to all lands inside any collaborating Alaska Native Village with a inhabitants that’s no less than 75 p.c Alaska Native. 

Finally month’s listening to, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), committee chair, urged the Senate to maneuver shortly to introduce a bipartisan invoice to reauthorize VAWA. As a result of the Senate is evenly divided at 50-50, Democrats should discover 10 Republican votes to keep away from a filibuster. The major sticking factors this time round seem like the identical points that derailed reauthorization earlier than the final Congress:  provisions that may add firearm restrictions for convicted home abusers and new protections for LGBTQ victims of violence. Though the Senate has but to go a VAWA reauthorization invoice, in October 2019, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) drafted Alaska Native provisions for VAWA reauthorization that can doubtless inform the broader Tribal provisions within the invoice the Senate places ahead. Her proposal, described in our Spring 2021 Native Affairs Quarterly, would have prolonged particular Tribal felony jurisdiction to as much as 30 Alaska Native Villages or village consortia as half of a pilot program.  As an alternative of redefining the time period “Indian country,” Sen. Murkowski proposed increasing the jurisdictional attain of Alaska Tribes collaborating within the pilot program to everything of collaborating Alaska Native Villages. 

VAWA reauthorization is a precedence for the Biden Administration, a degree Sen. Durbin emphasised ultimately month’s Senate Judiciary Committee assembly. There’s stress on Congress to achieve a bipartisan resolution, and we anticipate no matter laws outcomes from ongoing Senate negotiations to incorporate expanded jurisdictional authority for Tribes.

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