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Biden signs order addresses safety of Native Americans, includes LGBTQ+

“We have to continue to stand up for the dignity and the sovereignty of tribal nations,” the president said

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President Biden signs his executive order at the Tribal Nations Summit November 15, 2022 (Screenshot via White House YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In an Executive Order signed earlier this week on Monday, President Joe Biden ordered the Federal government to work with the Tribal Nations across the U.S. to improve the public safety and criminal justice system for Native Americans.

The president signed the Executive Order as his administration kicked off the first White House Tribal Nations Summit on Monday. It was the first such gathering since the Obama White House held its last Tribal Nation Conference in September 2016.

The summit was attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (A member of the Laguna Pueblo Nation) whose daughter is a lesbian, the President and the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

The summit was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal leaders representing the Tribal nations appeared on a virtual screen as a backdrop to the program at the White House, where the summit was broadcast from.

“We understand we cannot address these challenges unless we partner with and honor our nation-to-nation relationship with tribes. You all are keepers of our traditions, the defenders of our resources and visionaries for our future. You and your communities harness Indigenous knowledge that we need to help guide our government – not just across budget years, but across generations,” Secretary Halaand said as the Summit commenced.

In his remarks, Biden told tribal leaders “this is a big day” and reminded tribal leaders his American Rescue Plan included $31 billion for Tribal nations, the “most significant investment in the history of Indian country.” He also noted that the bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed later that day includes more than $13 billion in direct investments to Indian Country with intended benefits such as clean drinking water and high-speed Internet.

“We have to continue to stand up for the dignity and the sovereignty of tribal nations,” the president said.

 The president outlined five new initiatives from his administration: protecting tribal treaty rights, increasing tribal participation in management of federal lands, incorporating tribal ecological knowledge into the federal government’s scientific approach, taking action to protect the greater Chaco Canyon area in New Mexico from further oil and gas leasing, and signing the new executive order addressing violence against Native Americans.

The president addressed the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous People in the country, with a specific reference in the order to LGBTQ+ Native Americans and people who identify as “Two-Spirit” people within Tribal communities.

In the order Biden also noted that; ” Previous executive action has not achieved changes sufficient to reverse the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous people and violence against Native Americans.”

The president’s order directs the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve data collection and information sharing. 

It also includes directives that the Attorney General issue recommendations to improve the use and accessibility of DNA database services, and to collect data for “ongoing analysis… on violent crime and missing persons involving Native Americans, including in urban Indian communities, to better understand the extent and causes of this crisis.” 

The order also directs the Departments of Justice, the Interior, HHS, Energy, and Homeland Security to “conduct timely consultations with Tribal Nations” and to “engage Native American communities to obtain their comments and recommendations,” and provides for increased collaboration across tribal nations and U.S. government agencies, as well as for technical assistance.

Full Text:

Section 1.  Policy.  The safety and well-being of all Native Americans is a top priority for my Administration.  My Administration will work hand in hand with Tribal Nations and Tribal partners to build safe and healthy Tribal communities and to support comprehensive law enforcement, prevention, intervention, and support services.

Generations of Native Americans have experienced violence or mourned a missing or murdered family member or loved one, and the lasting impacts of such tragedies are felt throughout the country.  Native Americans face unacceptably high levels of violence, and are victims of violent crime at a rate much higher than the national average. Native American women, in particular, are disproportionately the victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including intimate partner homicide.  Research shows that approximately half of Native American women have experienced sexual violence and that approximately half have experienced physical violence by an intimate  partner.  LGBTQ+ Native Americans and people who identify as “Two-Spirit” people within Tribal communities are also often the targets of violence.  And the vast majority of Native American survivors report being victimized by a non-Native American individual.   

For far too long, justice has been elusive for many Native American victims, survivors, and families.  Criminal jurisdiction complexities and resource constraints have left many injustices unaddressed.  Some progress has been made, particularly on Tribal lands.  Given that approximately 70 percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas and part of this epidemic of violence is against Native American people in urban areas, we must continue that work on Tribal lands but also build on existing strategies to identify solutions directed toward the particular needs of urban Native Americans. 

In 2020, bipartisan members of the 116th Congress took an important step forward through the passage of two pieces of legislation — Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act of 2019 ‑- that include important provisions for improving law enforcement and justice protocols as well as improving access to data to address missing or murdered indigenous people.  My Administration is committed to fully implementing these laws and working with the Congress to fund these programs for Native Americans. Earlier this year, the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General announced a Joint Commission, established pursuant to the Not Invisible Act, that includes: representatives of Tribal, State, and local law enforcement; Tribal judges; Native American survivors of human trafficking; health care and mental health practitioners who have experience working with Native American survivors of human trafficking and sexual assault; Urban Indian Organizations focused on violence against women and children; and family members of missing or murdered indigenous people. The Commission will work to address the persistent violence endured by Native American families and communities across the country.  In addition, the Department of the Interior has established a special unit to focus resources on active and unsolved missing persons cases.

But more work is needed to address the crisis of ongoing violence against Native Americans — and of missing or murdered indigenous people.  Previous executive action has not achieved changes sufficient to reverse the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous people and violence against Native Americans.  The Federal Government must prioritize addressing this issue and its underlying causes, commit the resources needed to tackle the high rates of violent crime that Native Americans experience over the long term, coordinate and provide resources to collect and analyze data, and work closely with Tribal leaders and community members, Urban Indian Organizations, and other interested parties to support prevention and intervention efforts that will make a meaningful and lasting difference on the ground. 

It is the policy of my Administration to work directly with Tribal Nations to strengthen public safety and criminal justice in Indian Country and beyond, to reduce violence against Native American people, and to ensure swift and effective Federal action that responds to the problem of missing or murdered indigenous people.  My Administration understands that Native American people, particularly the survivors of violence, know best what their communities need to make them safer.  Consistent engagement, commitment, and collaboration will drive long-term improvement to public safety for all Native Americans.

Sec. 2.  Coordination of a Federal Law Enforcement Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Native Americans.  The Attorney General, working with the Secretary of the Interior and the heads of other executive departments and agencies (agencies) as appropriate, shall assess and build on existing efforts to develop a coordinated and comprehensive Federal law enforcement strategy to prevent and respond to violence against Native Americans, including to address missing or murdered indigenous people where the Federal Government has jurisdiction.  The strategy shall set out a plan to address unsolved cases involving Native Americans; provide for coordination among the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Homeland Security in their efforts to end human trafficking; seek to strengthen and expand Native American participation in the Amber Alert in Indian Country initiative; and build on and enhance national training programs for Federal agents and prosecutors, including those related to trauma-informed and victim-centered interview and investigation techniques. The strategy shall also include protocols for effective, consistent, and culturally and linguistically appropriate communication with families of victims and their advocates, including through the creation of a designated position within the Department of Justice assigned the function of serving as the outreach services liaison for criminal cases where the Federal Government has jurisdiction.  The Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior shall report to the President within 240 days of the date of this order describing the strategy developed and identifying additional resources or other support necessary to implement that strategy. 

Sec. 3.  Supporting Tribal and Other Non-Federal Law Enforcement Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Native Americans. 
     (a)  The Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior, working with the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall develop guidance, identify leading practices, and provide training and technical assistance, consistent with applicable law and available appropriations, to:

          (i)    assist Tribal governments in implementing special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction pursuant to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, enabling them to prosecute certain non-Indian defendants for domestic violence and dating violence offenses in Indian Country, and also assist Tribes in implementing any relevant Tribal provisions in subsequent Violence Against Women Act reauthorization legislation;
          (ii)   assist Tribal governments within Oklahoma, consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020), to build capacity to handle cases within their criminal jurisdiction, including the capacity to provide victim services;
          (iii)  promote coordination of Federal, State, local, and Tribal law enforcement, including, as appropriate, through the development and support of Tribal Community Response Plans;
          (iv)   continue to assist Tribal law enforcement and judicial personnel with training, as described in 25 U.S.C. 2451, on the investigation and prosecution of offenses related to illegal narcotics and on alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment; and
          (v)    assist Tribal, State, and local law enforcement entities’ ability to apply linguistically appropriate, trauma-informed, and victim-centered practices when working with victims of crime, and to develop prevention strategies and recognize the indicators of human trafficking affecting Native Americans.

     (b)  The Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior shall continue to assess their respective grantmaking operations to evaluate whether any changes, consistent with applicable law, are warranted to make that grantmaking more equitable for Tribal applicants seeking support for law enforcement purposes and for the provision of services to victims and survivors.

Sec. 4.  Improving Data Collection, Analysis, and Information Sharing. 

     (a)  The Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), as appropriate, shall sustain efforts to improve data collection and information-sharing practices, conduct outreach and training, and promote accurate and timely access to information services regarding crimes or threats against Native Americans, including in urban areas, such as through the National Crime Information Center, the Next Generation Identification system, and the National Violent Death Reporting System, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law. 

     (b) The Attorney General shall take steps, consistent with applicable law, to expand the number of Tribes participating in the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information, which provides Tribes access to national crime information systems for federally authorized purposes.

     (c) The Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of HHS, shall develop a strategy for ongoing analysis of data collected on violent crime and missing persons involving Native Americans, including in urban Indian communities, to better understand the extent and causes of this crisis.  Within 240 days of the date of this order, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of HHS shall report jointly to the President on the strategy they have developed to conduct and coordinate that analysis and shall identify additional resources or other support necessary to implement that strategy.

     (d) The Attorney General shall assess the current use of DNA testing and DNA database services to identify missing or murdered indigenous people and any responsible parties, including the unidentified human remains, missing persons, and relatives of missing persons indices of the Combined DNA Index System and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.  Within 240 days of the date of this order, the Attorney General shall report the outcome of this assessment to the President, along with recommendations to improve the use and accessibility of DNA database services.     

     (e) The Secretary of HHS shall evaluate the adequacy of research and data collection efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health in accurately measuring the prevalence and effects of violence against Native Americans, especially those living in urban areas, and report to the President within 180 days of the date of this order on those findings and any planned changes to improve those research and data collection efforts. 

Sec. 5.  Strengthening Prevention, Early Intervention, and Victim and Survivor Services. 

     (a)  The Secretary of HHS, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and Tribal Nations and after conferring with other agencies, researchers, and community-based organizations supporting indigenous wellbeing, including Urban Indian Organizations, as appropriate, shall develop a comprehensive plan to support prevention efforts that reduce risk factors for victimization of Native Americans and increase protective factors, including by enhancing the delivery of services for Native American victims and survivors, as well as their families and advocates.  The comprehensive plan shall, to the extent possible, build on the existing evidence base.  The plan shall include strategies for improving mental and behavioral health; providing substance abuse services; providing family support, including high-quality early childhood programs for victims and survivors with young children; and preventing elder abuse, gender-based violence, and human trafficking.  In addition, the plan shall also include community-based strategies that improve community cohesion and cultural connectivity and preservation, educational programs to increase empowerment and self-advocacy, and strategies to encourage culturally and linguistically appropriate, trauma-informed, and victim-centered service delivery to Native Americans, including for survivors of gender-based violence.  The Secretary of HHS shall report to the President within 240 days of the date of this order describing the plan and actions taken and identifying any additional resources or other support needed.    

     (b)  The Secretary of HHS and the Secretary of the Interior shall review procedures within their respective departments for reporting child abuse and neglect, including barriers to reporting, and shall take appropriate action to make reporting of child abuse and neglect by the Indian Health Service easier and more streamlined.  In addition, the Secretaries shall assess and identify ways to expand Native American access to child advocacy center services such as pediatric medical forensic examination services, mental health care providers with advanced training in child trauma, and culturally and linguistically appropriate activities and services geared toward pediatric patients.  The Secretaries shall report to the President within 180 days of the date of this order describing actions taken, findings from the assessment, and planned actions to expand access, and identifying any additional resources or other support needed.    

     (c)  The Secretary of the Interior, consulting with the Attorney General and the Secretary of HHS, as appropriate, shall evaluate the effectiveness of existing technical assistance and judicial support services for Tribes to provide community-based conflict resolution, as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate, trauma-informed, and victim-centered strategies, including traditional healing services and healing courts, and shall identify and make improvements as needed.  The Secretary of the Interior shall report to the President within 180 days of the date of this order describing the evaluation findings and the improvements implemented.

Sec. 6.  Consultation and Engagement.  In accordance with the Presidential Memorandum of January 26, 2021 (Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships), the Departments of Justice, the Interior, HHS, Energy, and Homeland Security shall conduct timely consultations with Tribal Nations and shall engage Native American communities to obtain their comments and recommendations regarding implementing sections 2 through 5 of this order.  Tribal consultation and engagement shall continue as the strategies required by this order are implemented.

Sec. 7.  Definitions.  For the purposes of this order

     (a) “Tribal Nation” means an American Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges as a federally recognized tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 5130, 5131.
     (b) “Native American” and “Native” mean members of one or more Tribal Nations.
     (c) “Urban Indian Organization” means a nonprofit corporate body situated in an urban center, governed by an urban Indian controlled board of directors, and providing for the maximum participation of all interested Indian groups and individuals, which body is capable of legally cooperating with other public and private entities, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1603(29).

Sec. 8.  General Provisions. 
     (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: 
          (i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
          (ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

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LGBTQ+ leaders on reproductive justice & civil rights meet at White House

The importance of right to reproductive decision-making & privacy & the importance of reproductive health care for LGBTQI+ people highlighted

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White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein and White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Racial Justice and Equity Chiraag Bains convened a meeting with national LGBTQI+ leaders on protecting access to reproductive health care and protecting LGBTQI+ civil rights.

Advocates discussed the importance of protecting access to abortion for the LGBTQI+ community, and the need to protect critical and foundational LGBTQI+ civil rights, including marriage equality.

Participants also highlighted the importance of the right to reproductive decision-making and privacy, and the importance of reproductive health care for LGBTQI+ people as they start families, and cited fears about the challenges LGBTQI+ families are facing as states pass extreme laws restricting access to critical health care, including reproductive health care and gender-affirming care.
 
Senior Administration officials highlighted the President’s unwavering commitment to LGBTQI+ civil rights, reproductive rights, and safeguarding LGBTQI+ couples and families.

Participants included representatives from:

  • Equality Federation
  • Family Equality
  • Lambda Legal
  • Freedom for All Americans
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • National LGBTQ Task Force
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • National Women’s Law Center
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The White House

President Biden addresses Americans on Texas shooting

“I will just say to the people of Uvalde: Please know that we grieve with you. And we are praying for you, and we stand with you”

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President Biden speaks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott regarding the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that killed 18 children and one adult Tuesday. Biden was returning to Washington D.C. aboard Air Force One from his recent trip to Asia. (Official White House Photo)

WASHINGTON – A somber President Joe Biden, accompanied by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden spoke to the American people Tuesday night addressing the horrific mass shooting of 18 elementary children and their teacher at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Biden learned about the shooting while traveling aboard Air Force One returning to Washington after his recent trip to Asia. The president’s anger and palpable disgust over yet another mass shooting, occurring less than a week after the Buffalo New York mass shooting incident at the Tops supermarket in a predominately Black neighborhood that killed 10 people at the hands of an avowed white supremacist suspect- also 18-years-old, was visible.

Biden addresses nation on mass shooting that killed 18 children in Uvalde, Texas.

“I’d hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this again. Another massacre at a Texas elementary school. Beautiful, innocent second, third, fourth graders,” the President, clearly emotional and choked up, said. “As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When, in God’s name, will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”

“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage,” he said. “For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”

He added, “if an 18-year-old can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons, it’s just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren’t running through the forests with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.”

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

Earlier, Vice-President Kamala Harris, speaking at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 28th Annual Awards at Washington’s Renaissance Hotel spoke to the attendees about the shooting.

Tonight is a rough night.  We planned for a great celebration, but I’m sure most of you have heard the tragic news about what has happened in Texas. So I had prepared comments about tonight, which I will speak, but I just first want to begin by saying a few words about the tragedy that occurred today in Uvalde, Texas.
 

As many of you now, the reports are that there was a mass shooting at an elementary school, and the preliminary reports are that 14 children have been killed.  And the details are still coming in, and of course the President and I are monitoring the situation closely.
So while we don’t know all the details yet, we do know that there are parents who have lost children, families that have lost children and their loves ones, of course, and many others who may have been injured.

 
So, I would normally say in a moment like this — we would all say naturally — that our hearts break, but our hearts keep getting broken. 
 
You know, I think so many — there’s so many elected leaders in this room.  You know what I’m talking about.  Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break, and our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families.  And yet, it keeps happening.
So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough.  Enough is enough.

 
As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what make for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again.
 So, the President will speak more about this later.  But for now, I will just say to the people of Uvalde: Please know that this is a room full of leaders who grieve with you.  And we are praying for you, and we stand with you.
 
And it is difficult at a time like this to think about much else, but I do look around this room and I know who is here, and I know this is a room full of American leaders who know and have the courage to take a stand.  And so let us, tonight, as we do every time we all get together, recommit ourselves to having the courage to take action.

President Biden Delivers Remarks on the Horrific Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas:

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White House condemns Oklahoma ban on abortions starting at fertilization

“Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned”

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Screenshot/NBC News)

WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement Thursday night condemning the Oklahoma Abortion Bill passed earlier in the day banning nearly all abortions starting at fertilization, which would make it the nation’s strictest abortion law.

The New York Times noted that the bill is modeled on one that took effect in Texas in September, which has relied on civilian instead of criminal enforcement to work around court challenges. But it goes further than the Texas law, which bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

“The President believes that women have the fundamental right to make their own reproductive health choices. Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.  Today’s action by the Oklahoma legislature is the most extreme effort to undo these fundamental rights we have seen to date.  In addition, it adopts Texas’ absurd plan to allow private citizens to sue their neighbors for providing reproductive health care and helping women to exercise their constitutional rights,” Jean-Pierre said.

“This is part of a growing effort by ultra MAGA officials across the country to roll back the freedoms we should not take for granted in this country.  They are starting with reproductive rights, but the American people need to know that other fundamental rights, including the right to contraception and marriage equality, are at risk.  The President is committed to standing up for these constitutional rights, and for protecting Americans’ fundamental freedoms,” she added.

The bill subjects abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion to civil suits from private individuals. It would take effect immediately upon signature by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, who has pledged to make Oklahoma the most anti-abortion in the nation.

Oklahoma One Step Closer To Banning Abortions At Conception:

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