Luján Introduces Legislation To Strengthen Tribal Protections for Children and Law Enforcement Under VAWA Reauthorization
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), introduced The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act, to strengthen Tribal protections for children and Tribal law enforcement by building on the expansions of Tribal authority under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) authorized Tribes to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction (SDVCJ) to arrest, prosecute and detain non-Indians for domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders if certain conditions are met. Despite these advancements in VAWA 2013, Tribes express continued frustration at their inability to prosecute attempted, threatened or committed violence against children or Tribal law enforcement when crimes occur in conjunction with domestic violence offenses. Also, additional funding is needed for Tribes to exercise SDVCJ and to allow more Tribes to participate in the Department of Justice program.
The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act addresses those loopholes by clarifying definitions to ensure Tribes can prosecute attempted, threatened or committed violence against children or law enforcement in connection with domestic violence incidents. The legislation also authorizes increased appropriations of $15 million annually to assist in that effort. Under the bill, Tribes can also be reimbursed for costs incurred while implementing this special criminal jurisdiction.
“Protecting children must be our nation’s highest priority,” said Senator Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce The Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act to strengthen protections for children and Tribal law enforcement that are also exposed to violence in conjunction with domestic violence. This legislation would close existing loopholes in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 by including attempted or threatened acts of violence against children and Tribal law enforcement, and by increasing funding to ensure Tribes have sufficient resources to exercise their expanded authority under the SDVCJ program. The safety of our children, committed law enforcement officers, and criminal justice personnel must never be left in question, and I’m glad this legislation provides clarity and support needed for Tribes to keep their communities safe.”
“Violence against Native youth and Tribal law enforcement officers is unacceptable in any form,” said Senator Smith. “This bill is an important step toward justice for victims. It’s critical that the Senate move to reauthorize VAWA with a strong Tribal title, including the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act. Native communities in Minnesota and across the country cannot wait any longer.”
“Protecting our children is our most sacred duty, as is protecting the brave officers who answer domestic violence calls to protect them and their family members. Senator Luján’s Native Youth and Tribal Protection Act expands Tribes’ ability under the Violence Against Women Act to protect both our children and our Tribal police when domestic violence strikes. This legislation will not only help to improve child well-being by reducing child abuse connected with domestic violence, it will also safeguard the welfare of our committed law enforcement teams, helping our courts keep every member of our community safe,” said Governor Chavarria, Santa Clara Pueblo.
The legislation has been endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, National American Indian Court Judges Association, and the Santa Clara Pueblo.
Full text of the legislation is available HERE.