The Native American Working Group of the Washington Interfaith Staff Coalition recently lobbied the House Judiciary Committee to support the SURVIVE Act. Here’s what the Working Group submitted.
As faith-based advocacy organizations and service providers committed to uplifting Native American concerns, we write to you to ask you to support the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act, H.R. 4608.
We are members of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC) Native American Working Group, composed of faith based organizations from a broad range of religious traditions, and we are committed to the well-being of all our neighbors. We are led not only by compassion, but also by a sense of justice, acknowledging the historic role of faith groups and others in restricting the cultural and economic cohesion of Indian nations here on this continent. We seek to heal our connections with Native people, and to ensure Congress upholds its trust responsibilities with tribes. Congress has an obligation to provide the resources needed to enable tribes to self-govern and to effectively deliver essential services to tribal communities.
The Department of Justice has found that on some reservations, the murder rates of Native women are ten times the national average. 83% of American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced violence in their lifetime. Native communities face some of the highest crime victimization rates in the country yet many of these victims are less likely to access victim services.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was enacted in 1984 and established the Crime Victims Fund (CVF). This Fund establishes grant funding to support victim services such as domestic violence shelters, counseling, and court advocacy. In addition to services, the Fund provides victims compensation to cover medical care, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages. The CVF is funded only though the money the government collects from criminal fines and penalties. Prior to FY 2018, tribes have only indirectly received funding which amount to less than 0.7% of available funds.
Each year, tribes have had to lobby through the budget appropriations process to receive funding, but this strategy is only a temporary fix for a significant need. Tribes require a permanent, authorized set aside from the Crime Victims Fund, which is why we’re asking you to support the (HR. 4608/S. 1870) SURVIVE Act.
We support the SURVIVE Act because it amends the VOCA to include tribes in grant funding, and provides a 5% set aside for tribes. Having access to the CVF will improve the safety of tribal communities and provide needed resources for Native victims of crime.
This bill has strong bipartisan support, and will provide equal access to the Fund without increasing overall spending. Grant funding will go towards culturally-appropriate victim services such as domestic violence shelters, medical care, counseling, and crisis intervention and prevention. It will be instrumental for improving safety in tribal communities and helping Native victims of crime in this current epidemic of violence, especially against Native women.
We believe the SURVIVE Act’s creation of a long-term support mechanism for victim services will both prevent crime and violence, and will help victims heal. It is a long-due step forward for the safety of Native peoples, and we urge you to support this important bill.
Washington Interfaith Staff Coalition (WISC)
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Office of Justice and Ecology, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Franciscan Action Network
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Islamic Society of North America
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
American Friends Service Committee
National Council of Churches