|Native News Online Staff|
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held a stakeholder meeting on ways to more effectively prevent, prosecute, and improve data collection on human trafficking in Indian Country. Federal data on human trafficking in Native communities is limited, but available information suggests human trafficking in the United States frequently targets vulnerable populations, which would include Native Americans who disproportionately face high rates of poverty and trauma. In order to address the shortage of information, the Indian Affairs committee requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) seek data on the prevalence of human trafficking in Native communities and research the frequency with which law enforcement agencies have encountered it, the services that are available to victims, demographic information, efforts to increase prosecutions, and other federal initiatives.
Udall released the following statement:
"Human trafficking affects every community in the United States – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. And because Native Americans disproportionally face high rates of poverty and trauma, they are especially vulnerable and frequent targets of human trafficking. For years, Tribal leaders and Native activists have raised the issue of human trafficking with Congress. By sharing their powerful and often heart-breaking stories, they have elevated our awareness about the need for more information and more resources to combat the spread of human trafficking in Indian country.
"But the fact is that the federal government knows very little about the rates of human trafficking on Tribal lands. And it knows even less about human trafficking of individual Native Americans. After reviewing these GAO reports, it is clear that the true extent of human trafficking in Indian Country remains unknown. But it is also clear to me that the federal government could do more to help Native victims who are slipping through the cracks. Congress must take a long, hard look at how federal agencies collect and monitor data on this issue, ensure their accountability, and then work to provide federal and Tribal law enforcement agencies with enough resources to keep Indian Country safe. The administration’s proposed cuts to federal law enforcement agencies and Tribal programs would only further strain public safety initiatives on Tribal lands. Instead of jeopardizing Native communities by cutting policing and justice budgets, Congress should look for new ways to get funding resources to Tribes.
"Like with other crimes in Indian Country, addressing human trafficking will require Congress to look at and pass legislation that addresses issues of jurisdiction and inter-agency cooperation, and I’m hopeful that we can work together to provide Tribes with more resources to combat human trafficking and ensure that all Native victims of crime get the support they so desperately need."