Indian Country upset with House version of bill
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The House of Representatives passed its version of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill on Wednesday, May 16 – a version far different than the bi-partisan bill passed last month by the Senate.
“Today’s vote by my House colleagues sends a strong message that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should leave politics at the door and focus on the victims who need our help,” said Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) who sponsored the bill in the House. “It is disappointing that the Senate has instead chosen to score political points on the backs of victims by inserting provisions that pit one group against another.”
Rep. Adams continued, “Make no mistake about it, this is a victim-centered bill that is all inclusive. Just like past reauthorizations, the House-passed legislation is focused on all victims, without regard for race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or nationality.”
Many in Indian Country disagree.
Juana Majel-Dixon is the 1st Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and is also co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women. “Native women aren’t safer as a result of the passage of HR4790. In fact, the tribal provisions included in this bill create additional hurdles for Indian women seeking protection from violence on tribal lands, and that is unacceptable.”
Majel-Dixon went on to say, “Indian Country supports the bipartisan Senate VAWA bill, which contains constitutionally-sound tribal provisions that provide local solutions that will deliver long-overdue justice to Native women and safety to tribal communities.”
NCAI released a statement on the House bill which stated in part, “HR4970 would ‘federalize’ the issuance and enforcement of protection orders for Native victims, authorizing Indian victims of domestic violence or Indian tribes on behalf of Indian victims to seek protection orders from U.S. district courts against suspects of abuse. This approach fails to address the crux of the problem – a lack of local authority to handle misdemeanor level domestic and dating violence when the perpetrator is non-Indian. The legislation passed by the House is drafted in a way that undermines the safety and autonomy of victims.”
But, the passage of HR4970 might be in vain anyways as President Obama will most likely veto the bill. In a Statement of Administration Policy issued Tuesday, May 15, the day before the House debate on the bill, the Office of the President stated, “If the President is presented with HR4970, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
“HR4970 fails to provide for concurrent special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction by tribal authorities over non-Indians, and omits clarification of tribal courts’ full civil jurisdiction regarding certain protection orders over non-Indians,” reads the statement. “Given that three out of five Native American women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, these omissions in HR4970 are unacceptable.”