Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON During a fierce debate that argued the merits of of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, known as S. 47, the United States Senate heard from Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, who urged swift passage of the Act that contains strong Tribal provisions.
US Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Cantwell also called for the rejection of an amendment that would remove Tribal provisions from the bill. The amendment, which is scheduled for a vote on Monday, would overturn Tribal jurisdiction and limit the ability of Tribal courts to punish non-Indian domestic violence offenders who assault Indian women. The amendment would lower the crime of domestic violence by Non-Indians against Indian women from a felony to a misdemeanor level punishment, regardless of the circumstances or severity of the crime.
“I would say to my colleagues it's time to pass this legislation, and to protect these rights for all individuals,”
Senator Cantwell said.
“We cannot vote for an amendment on the other side of the aisle that basically strips the rights of Native American women and treats them like second-class citizens. Nor can we just go silent on what is an epidemic problem in our country.”
Senator Cantwell is an original co-sponsor of the bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. on January 22. Since the first VAWA bill passed in 1994, domestic violence has decreased by 53 percent. The reauthorization bill includes critical improvements to extend domestic violence protections to individuals, including women in Tribal communities, who are currently not protected. An estimated 40 percent of Native women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Eighty percent of perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian, and under current law, are not likely to be prosecuted by Tribal governments.
Previous reauthorizations of VAWA have been approved in a timely fashion with overwhelming support. Last Congress, a similar Senate version of the VAWA reauthorization bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68-31, but ultimately stalled in the House. S. 47 has 60 co-sponsors and is expected to head to the Senate floor for final passage next week.
Senator Cantwell has been a consistent champion for the reauthorization of VAWA. In December, she joined six of her female Democratic Senate colleagues to all for House passage of VAWA before Congress adjourned for the year. In April 2012, she joined Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, at the King County Sheriff's office to highlight the benefits of the bill to local law enforcement.
"This is about legislation that will protect tribal women on Indian reservations and to make sure that these cases of abuse, whether they are done by a Native American or non-Native American are protected."
"The notion that this is somehow abrogating individual rights just because the crime takes place on a tribal reservation is incorrect. So I ask my colleagues, do you want to continue to have this unbelievable growth and petri dish of crime evolving? Because criminals know, when you have a porous border that is where they are going to go."
"It is time to pass this legislation. And to protect these rights for all individuals. We cannot vote for an amendment on the other side of the aisle that basically strips the rights of Native American women and treats them like second-class citizens. Nor can we just go silent on what is an epidemic problem in our country."
1 | 2 next page »
posted February 8, 2013 6:59 am est