Not Invisible Act of 2019

The Issue

  • The National Institute of Justice reports that more than 80% of American Indian and Alaska Native men and women have experienced violence in their lifetimes.
    • 34% have experienced violence in the last year.
  • The National Institute of Justice estimates that 56% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • In 2017, 5,646 Native American women were reported missing within the United States.
  • In Montana, Native Americans compose 6.7% of the population, but make up 26% of the state’s missing persons cases.
  • Murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women.
(Megan Farmer)

What is it?

The Not Invisible Act of 2019 is a bill aiming to combat human trafficking, as well as missing and murdered women within indigenous tribes. The bill enacts sweeping measures, such as creating a new position within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to better handle coordination between the BIA and the Department of Justice pertaining to missing and murdered indigenous women. The bill also creates a “Joint Advisory Committee”, with representation from nearly all areas of indigenous life, to advise the federal government on matters pertaining to violence within Native communities.

From Twitter @lisamurkowski

Joint advisory committee

The Joint Advisory Committee put into place through the Not Invisible Act is one of the primary functions of the bill. The committee serves to advise the federal government, and has wide-reaching representation, including but not limited to:

  •  Tribal Law Enforcement
  • FBI
  • Dept. of Health & Human Services
  • Indian Advocacy Organizations
  • Indian survivor(s) of human trafficking
  • National Institute of Justice
  • State/Local Law Enforcement
  • DOJ Human Trafficking Unit
  • Tribal Judge
  • Leaders of Indian Tribes
  • Family member(s) of missing natives
  • Indian Health Service

Members of the committee would serve for life, without pay, and fulfill various goals set out in the text of the legislation. These include:

  • Providing recommendations to the Departments of Justice and Interior on actions to combat violent crime against Native Americans.
    • Strategies for identifying and reporting cases of missing persons
    • Recommendations for legislative changes
    • Hiring/Retention of law enforcement officers
    • Coordination of Tribal and Federal resources
  • Develop best practices for Tribal and Federal law enforcement to combat violent crime.
    • Creation of sample training materials
    • Create guidelines for: 
      • Information sharing between Tribal and Federal agencies
      • Helping agencies to understand the types of violent crime present in Tribal communities
      • Strategies for coordination between Tribal officials, Federal officials, victim advocacy groups, etc.

New BIA Position

In addition to creating the Joint Advisory Committee, the Not Invisible Act establishes a new office within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the purpose of improving the coordination between the tribal, state, and federal governments. The individual is tasked with coordinating prevention efforts between federal agencies, as well as providing training to law enforcement, healthcare workers, businesses, and more on how to effectively respond to instances of violent crime on Indian land.

Current Status

Neither the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, nor the Senate’s version has fully passed yet, although the bill has seen a great deal of popular support.

House Bill

The House version of the bill was introduced by four members of federally recognized tribes:

  • Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01) (Pueblo of Laguna)
  • Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4) (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma) 
  • Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03) (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) (Cherokee Nation)

The House’s version of the bill was reported out of committee, but hasn’t proceeded further.

Click to view full text of bill

Click to track bill

Senate Bill

The Senate version has recently seen action furthering the progression of the bill.

The bill was reported out of the Senate committee on Indian Affairs on Feb. 11, 2020. It passed a voice vote in the general chamber of the Senate on March 11, 2020. The Senate bill has since been sent to the House.

Click to view full text of bill

Click to track bill

(Lorie Shaull)

What can you do?

In order for the Not Invisible Act to become a reality, the House of Representatives needs to acknowledge the importance of the proposed legislation, and take action to pass the bill. As a constituent within the United States of America, you can reach out to your congressperson, and request that they take support the bill.

Congressional contacts can be found here

More MMIW Legislation

“Haaland Leads Historic Bill to Increase Focus on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” Congresswoman Deb Haaland. Last modified May 1, 2019. Accessed April 21, 2020.

Martin, Nick. “The Cyclical Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” The New Republic. Last modified January 22, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2020.

Not Invisible Act of 2019, H.R. 2438, 116th Cong., 1st Sess. Accessed April 21, 2020.

Speier, Maxine. “Hundreds Turn Out For Montana Native Women’s Vigil In Missoula.” Montana Public Radio. Last modified January 21, 2019. Accessed April 20, 2020.