Floor Updates

Udall-NM, Shaheen

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 25 2012

02:03 PM

Senator Udall-NM: (12:29 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Not all women have seen the benefits of the Violence Against Women Act. That is why the tribal provisions in the reauthorization are so important. Native women are 2 1/2 times more likely than other U.S. women to be raped. One in three will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. It's estimated that 3-5 native women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Those numbers are tragic. Those numbers tell a story of great human suffering, of women in desperate situations, desperate for support and too often we have failed to provide that support. But the frequency of violence against native women is only part of the tragedy. To make matters worse, many of these crimes go unprosecuted and unpunished. Here's the problem. The tribes have no authority to prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence crimes against their Native American spouses or partners within the boundaries of their own tribal lands. And yet over 50% of native women are married to non-Indians. 76% of the overall population living on tribal lands are non-Indians. Instead, under existing law, these crimes fall exclusively under federal jurisdiction, but federal prosecutors have limited resources. They may be located hours away from tribal communities. As a result, non-Indian perpetrators often go unpunished the cycle of violence continues and often escalates at the expense of Native American victims. On some tribal lands, the homicide rate for native women is up so ten times the national average. But this starts with small crimes, small acts of violence that may not rise to the attention of a federal prosecutor. In 2006 and 2007, U.S. attorneys prosecuted only 45 misdemeanor crimes on tribal lands. For perspective, the amendment is river reservation in Arizona, which is - the Salt River reservation in Arizona, which is a relatively small range, reported over 450 domestic violence cases in 2006 alone. Those numbers are appalling. Native women should not be abandoned to a jurisdictional loophole. In effect, we have a prosecution-free zone. The tribal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act provide a remedy. The bill allows tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians in a narrow set of cases that meet the following specific conditions. The crime must have occurred in Indian country. The crime must be either a domestic violence or dating violence offense or a violation of a protection order. And the non-Indian defendant must reside in Indian country, be employed in Indian country, or be the spouse or intimate partner of a member of the prosecuting tribe. This bill does not and I emphasize does not extend tribal jurisdiction to include general crimes of violence by non-Indians or crimes between two non-Indians or crimes between persons with no ties to the tribe. Nothing in this provision diminishes or alters the jurisdiction of any federal or state court It provides comprehensive protections to all criminal defendants who are prosecuted in tribal courts, whether or not the defendant is a Native American. Defendants would essentially have the same rights in tribal court as in state court. These include, among many others, the right to counsel, to a speedy trial, to due process, the rights against unreasonable search and seizure, double jeopardy and self-incrimination. In fact, a tribe that does not provide these protections cannot prosecute non-Indians under this provision. Some have also questioned whether Congress has the authority to expand tribal criminal jurisdiction to cover non-Indians."

Senator Shaheen: (1:25 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "42 days ago - that's more than 1,000 hours - 42 days ago, 74 senators from this chamber voted to pass a badly needed long-term transportation bill. At that time I joined many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to call on the House to consider the Senate's bill or a similar bipartisan bill that would provide highway and transit programs with level funding for at least two years. Now, while the House has not yet passed a long-term bill, I am pleased that they voted to go to conference with the Senate. That means we're one step closer to finally having legislation in place that would support nearly two million jobs - about 6,600 of those in New Hampshire - a bill that would maintain current funding levels and that would avoid an increase in the deficit and the gas taxes. I urge the House and the speaker to immediately appoint conferees so we can continue moving forward and finally pass a long-term transportation bill. We can't wait any longer. 937 days have passed since our last federal transportation bill expired. If you're counting, that's two years, six months and 27 days. And if the House doesn't join the senate and support a reasonable bipartisan transportation bill that's paid for, states and towns won't have the certainty that they need from Washington to plan their projects and improve their transportation infrastructure. According to numerous studies, deteriorating infrastructure, the highways, the railroads, the transit systems, the bridges that knit our economy together cost businesses more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity. That's because we're not making the investments we need to make. And this is no time to further saw programs that encourage economic growth and create the climate for businesses to succeed."