July 26, 2018

Cortez Masto, Murkowski Introduce End Trafficking of Native Americans Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today introduced the End Trafficking of Native Americans Act of 2018. This bill addresses some of the gaps between tribal communities and the federal government in combatting human trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. It would establish an advisory committee on human trafficking comprised of law enforcement, tribal leaders, and service providers to make recommendations to the DOI and DOJ on combatting human trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The bill also establishes a Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinator within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate human trafficking prevention efforts across federal agencies.

“As Nevada’s Attorney General, one of my key missions was to stop the trafficking of innocent women and children and hold traffickers accountable, and I am proud to continue that work in the U.S. Senate” said Cortez Masto. “I have seen firsthand how factors including violence and historical trauma put Native Americans and Alaska Natives at an increased risk of trafficking. This bill will help coordinate investigation and prosecution efforts between federal agencies and will strengthen partnerships between the federal government, tribal leaders, law enforcement and victim advocates. I will continue to use all resources available to bring traffickers to justice and support Native American and Alaska Native survivors.”

“Human trafficking is as evil and vile an issue as any other that’s out there. It is a shocking reality that is felt deeply across the state of Alaska, impacting the Alaska Native population in devastating proportion. This legislation will allow for improved national collaboration between various agencies, tribal communities, and local law enforcement to help address human trafficking – with the assurance that an Alaskan will always have a voice at the table,” said Murkowski. “From strengthening our ability to prevent human trafficking to increasing culturally appropriate training and research programs, I am proud to help drive legislation that will help bring an end to trafficking against American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

“The federal government is aware that Native Americans are a population vulnerable to human trafficking, yet there is no comprehensive plan to address it,” said Chairman Chris Spotted Eagle of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. “This legislation to bring law enforcement, tribal leaders and service providers together to make recommendations to the Justice Department and the Department of Interior and to establish coordination between those agencies and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is a bridge to that plan.”

"Though we know that anecdotally human trafficking has had a devastating effect on our tribal communities, there seems to be a lack of understanding around how to best address it. This legislation will help to establish a better understanding of this issue as it relates to American Indian and Alaska Native populations in both Indian country and urban settings. We are thrilled that Senator Cortez Masto is placing a high significance on our communities and on our safety. Human trafficking of native men, women and children has for too long gone unaddressed,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

The End Trafficking of Native Americans Act is also supported by the Minnesota Indigenous Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC).

Text of the bill can be found HERE.

BACKGROUND:

The National Institute of Justice reports that more than 56% of American Indian and Alaska Native women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. Despite this high rate of sexual violence and the known correlation between high rates of sexual violence and trafficking, there were only 14 federal investigations and 2 federal prosecutions of human trafficking offenses in Indian country from 2013 through 2016.

The End Trafficking of Native Americans Act:

  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior to designate an official within the Office of Justice Services in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate human trafficking prevention efforts across the BIA, DOJ, and other federal agencies.
  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Attorney General, to establish an advisory committee on human trafficking composed of 15 members including tribal, state, and local law enforcement, advocacy organizations, representatives of relevant federal agencies, and at least one Native American survivor of human trafficking.
  • The Committee will make recommendations to the DOI and DOJ on what more the department can do to combat trafficking, including strategies for identifying and reporting human trafficking cases and identification of the legislative and administrative changes necessary.
  • The Committee will develop best practices for tribes and law enforcement to identify trafficking victims, collect and share information on trafficking across systems and agencies, better understand the types and prevalence of trafficking in Indian Country, and improve coordination between law enforcement, victim stakeholders, and Native communities. The best practices will include sample training materials and will be based on multidisciplinary and culturally relevant research and programs. The Committee will also recommend whether a federal study on human trafficking in Indian Country and of Native Americans and Alaska Natives is needed.

###