NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – May 5 is National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day. The United States Department of Justice says, “Responding to the unacceptable levels of violence that have led to the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons is a priority of the Department of Justice (DOJ) every day.” But what steps has the DOJ taken to help?
In honor of MMIP Awareness Day 2022, the department launched the Not Invisible Act Commission – a joint commission with the hopes of reducing violence against Native peoples throughout the country. The commission was sponsored by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. The commission is set to host a field hearing regarding the MMIP crisis in Albuquerque this June.
Not Invisible Act Commission Objectives
*According to the DOJ’s 2022 press release
- Identify, report, and respond to instances of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples cases and human trafficking
- Develop legislative and administrative changes necessary to use federal programs, properties, and resources to combat the crisis
- Track and report data on MMIP and human trafficking cases
- Consider issues related to the hiring and retention of law enforcement officers
- Coordinate Tribal-state-federal resources to combat MMIP and human trafficking offices on Native lands
- Increase information sharing with Tribal governments on violent crime investigations and other prosecutions on Native lands
DOJ Prioritization of MMIP Cases
Deputy Attorney General Monaco issued a memorandum in the summer of 2022, emphasizing the DOJ’s need to prioritize the “disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, and related, the high rates of indigenous persons reported missing.” The memorandum calls for law enforcement agencies to update and develop plans for addressing public safety regarding Indigenous populations.
Revised Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance
In October 2022, Attorney General Garland revised the Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance for the first time in a decade. The revisions included updates to cultural and linguistic considerations for government employees working with Native victims and witnesses. The new guidelines hope to “ensure that their [Indigenous peoples’] voices are heard and that they are protected during criminal justice proceedings.”
National Native American Outreach Services Liaison
The DOJ implemented a National Native American Outreach Services Liaison in 2022 with the hopes of amplifying the voices of Indigenous victims. According to the DOJ, the liaison plans to meet with MMIP survivors and their families to learn more about their challenges and what the department can do in response.
Response Plan Guide for Missing Persons Cases
The department published a Guide to Developing a Tribal Community Response Plan for Missing Persons Cases late last year. The guide provides a thorough layout for Native communities to develop official missing person policies. The plan consists of several recommended steps: taking inventory of current missing person policies, reviewing guidance documents, implementing working groups to lead the efforts, administering meetings, compiling a community response plan, and developing review processes.
Study of MMIP Cases in New Mexico
A study was conducted by the National Institute of Justice last year, providing information about the prevalence and context of MMIP cases within New Mexico. The DOJ says the research “will inform long-term data collection, analysis, and reporting strategies on MMIP cases. These improvements will support data-driven decision-making regarding MMIP in New Mexico and moving forward.”
Although the Department of Justice is making efforts to assist with the MMIP crisis, there is always more community members can do to help. Below are some resources regarding MMIP cases.
- Information on the MMIP crisis and donation link – Native Hope
- How to be an ally – Dr. Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe
- Toolkit for Families and Communities of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System & Webinar on how to enter a missing person’s information
- More educational resources, petitions, & donation links – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Resources