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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Image Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle

The House of Representatives finally passed a bill called “Savanna’s Act”, a measure that will require the Justice Department to develop a protocol in response to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women that is crippling native communities across the country. It is now headed to the president’s desk, waiting to be signed.

The bill was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman of Indigenous descent who was murdered in 2017 when she was eight months pregnant. 

According to CNN, the bi-partisan bill is designed not only to create better guidelines for authorities to respond to this pervasive problem, but also instructs the Justice Department to “provide training for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.” 

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “[It] helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans.”

From now on, the Justice Department will also be forced to provide an annual report on the numbers of missing Indigenous women–numbers that are, right now, unclear.

According to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member Tillie Aldrich (whose daughter was found dead in January), the historical lack of government response to the issue of violence against Native women boils down to structural racism. 

“If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it’s all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up,” Aldrich told Teen Vogue. “If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

via @R_OWL_MIRROR/TWITTER

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a pervasive but underreported problem.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 missing Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls were reported missing in 2016. Only 116 of them were registered in the Department of Justice database

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center database reports that Native American and Alaska Native women made up 0.8% of the U.S. population, but made up 1.8% of 2017 missing persons cases.

And these statistics only reflect the reported number of cases. Many native people have feelings of hopelessness when it comes to reporting their missing loved ones. They know that authorities won’t even try to find their missing family members.

Both family members of Indigenous people as well as Indigenous activists explain that there is a general attitude of apathy, victim-blaming, and lack of urgency when it comes to the local government’s response to these missing women. 

“When no one in authority looks for a missing woman, it sends a strong statement to the families and to communities that this life doesn’t matter–it is an expendable life,” said University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer to Teen Vogue.

“Victim-blaming is often a part of this dynamic,” Deer continued. “If she’s done X, Y, or Z–no wonder she got caught up in trouble. Unlike an innocent white college girl, this Native woman doesn’t deserve prioritization.”

But as of now, activists and organizers are hopeful that Savanna’s Act will change the way government institutions respond to this all-too-common problem. 

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women are no longer invisible. They are no longer hidden in the shadows,” said former North Dakota Senator and bill co-sponsor Heidi Heitkamp. “By raising awareness about this crisis and taking concrete action to help address it, we can help make sure Indigenous women are better protected.”

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Highlighting Missing Black Women: A Mother Is Searching For Daughter Who Hasn’t Been Seen Since Appearing With Bruises On Her Face

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Highlighting Missing Black Women: A Mother Is Searching For Daughter Who Hasn’t Been Seen Since Appearing With Bruises On Her Face

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According to Women’s Media Center, an estimated 64,000-75,000 Black women and girls currently remain missing in the United States.

Regarding the alarming rates at which Black children and Black women go missing, activists have done their best to highlight and sound the alarm in regards to the lack of coverage concerning this issue. They’ve worked hard to highlight the barriers Black families face when it comes to reporting missing loved ones (including mistrust of law enforcement), and the disparate ways law enforcement treat disappearances.

So when it comes to highlighting Black women and children at risk, it’s important to us that we help families act quickly.

Tiara Lott, 22, has been missing since January 29. 

Lott’s mother, Patricia Davis, says she was last seen on a video chat with one of her friends. At the time, her face appeared bruised.

“She was sore. They asked her, ‘What’s the address?’ to send an Uber and the phone hung up. Then 10 minutes later she sent out, ‘God forbid, if anything happens to me, that I love y’all and tell everybody.’ “

Davis says the last person she believes that her daughter saw was her boyfriend.

Lott’s family say that they have not seen or heard from her boyfriend, but have heard that he remains in the area in which she went missing.

According to Davis, Lott was in a house on Gold Street in Buffalo city’s Lovejoy neighborhood. Since Lott’s disappearance, her family has gone to the house and managed to recover some of her belongings.

“We found her clothes in the house, her boots. We went back to the house four days later, and we found my baby’s coat with her IDs in it,” Davis told Buffalo’s local news outlet 2WGRZ. After managing to recover video and pictures from surveillance cameras in the neighborhood the family is asking Buffalo Police to step in and conduct a search.

The family is currently offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who has information

“I’m out here everyday looking, running up in abandoned buildings, train tracks. I’m going crazy right now,” Lott’s mother said.

Lott is an East High graduate from Buffalo who was recently about to begin a new job in telemarketing. Her family has described her as an outgoing, loving, and fun shopper.

Anyone with information about Lott are asked to call 911 or the confidential tip line (716) 847-2255

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President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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President Joe Biden promised that he would introduce legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. The president has followed through with the promise and all eyes are on the government as millions wait to see what happens next.

President Joe Biden has been busy the first couple of weeks of his presidency.

President Biden is proposing a pathway to citizenship that millions of people in the U.S. have been asking for. There are around 11 million people who are undocumented in the U.S. The pathway to citizenship will take time, according to the legislation, but some people will have time shaved off of their pathway, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and farm workers who have worked throughout the pandemic.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is designed to change the immigration system that has created a backlog of immigration cases. There are multiple steps in the proposed legislation starting with creating a pathway to citizenship. Those who would benefit from the bill are people who are physically in the U.S. by January 2, 2021.

First, the bill allows for people to apply for temporary legal status. After five years, and if the person passes a criminal and national security background check, they can apply for a green card. Three years after that, people who pass further background checks and demonstrate a knowledge of English and civics can apply for citizenship.

A line in the bill aims to help people deported during the previous administration.

“The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017, who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes,” reads the proposed legislation.

The bill also wants to change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws to embrace the country’s stance as a country of immigrants.

The legislation has been introduced and now immigration activists are waiting to see it happen.

The legislation tackles several issues that have plagued the immigration system in the U.S. The bill proposes increasing visa limits for certain countries, keeping families together, removing discrimination against LGBTQ+ families, and so many other initiatives to start reforming the immigration system.

President Biden has been offering executive orders that are in the same vein as the bill. Many have aimed as fixing issues that were created by the previous administration and the president is not hiding from it.

“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders I’ve signed. I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office while signing executive orders. “What I’m doing is taking on the issues that, 99 percent of them, that the last president of the United States issued executive orders I thought were counterproductive to our national security, counterproductive to who we are as a country. Particularly in the area of immigration.”

The undocumented population peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million and has declined since then. There are at least 4.4 million people in the U.S. with at least one undocumented parent, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

READ: President Joe Biden Signs Executive Order To Preserve DACA

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