Bill seeks to create task force on missing, murdered Indigenous women
FARMINGTON — The creation of a task force to examine the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been proposed to the New Mexico Legislature.
The task force would conduct a study to determine how to increase state resources for reporting and identifying missing and murdered Indigenous women in the state.
In addition, the entity would collaborate with tribal law enforcement agencies to identify barriers in addressing cases and create partnerships to improve the reporting and investigative process.
The group would also work with tribal governments and collaborate with the U.S. Department of Justice to improve sharing and coordinating resources for reports and investigations of such cases.
Membership for the task force would consist of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department secretary or designee, the New Mexico Public Safety Department secretary or designee, a representative from the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services and a member from the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache Nation and one of the 19 pueblos in the state.
An amendment was made to add three seats, including the appointment of an Indigenous woman who has been a victim of violence or a family member of an Indigenous woman who has experienced such action.
The legislation proposes a $100,000 appropriation in fiscal year 2019 for use in fiscal year 2019 and 2020 to the Indian Affairs Department to maintain the task force.
Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, is one of four sponsors for the bill. Her district includes the pueblos of Pojoaque, Nambé, Tesuque and San Ildefonso.
"We know that this is a critical issue to families, to those that are basically looking for answers. This is one way for us to get started on insuring that we are taking direct action as a state on this issue," Romero said.
She added New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Her information is based on a report released last year by the Urban Indian Health Institute that requested data for cases that ranged from 1900 to present day from law enforcement agencies in 71 cities across 29 states.
The report examined available data for 506 cases, in addition assessing why obtaining data is difficult, how law enforcement agencies track and respond to cases and media coverage.
The task force bill is waiting action by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. It received support from the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Jan. 30.
Reps. Derrick Lente, D-Rio Arriba, Sandoval and San Juan; Melanie Stansbury, D-Bernalillo; and D. Wonda Johnson, D-McKinley and San Juan are also sponsoring the bill.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.