Indian women suffer incidents of domestic violence at rates more than double national averages, but Indian courts don't have jurisdiction over non-Indians, and federal prosecutors don't take up about half the violence cases on reservations because of lack of resources to pursue crimes on isolated Indian lands. The Senate bill would give Indian courts the ability to prosecute non-Indians for a set of crimes limited to domestic violence and violations of protecting orders. Opponents have said that raises constitutional issues.
"With this authority comes a serious responsibility, and tribal courts will administer justice with the same level of impartiality that any defendant is afforded in state and federal courts," said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians.
The Violence Against Women Act is credited with helping reduce domestic violence incidents by two-thirds over the past two decades. The Senate bill would authorize some $659 million a year over five years to fund current programs that provide grants for transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.
The Senate bill adds stalking to the list of crimes that make immigrants eligible for protection and authorizes programs dealing with sexual assault on college campuses and with efforts to reduce the backlog in rape kit analyses. It reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
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