On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order that would create a task force designed to investigate the ongoing problem of missing Native-American women.
“The task force will be overseen by Attorney General William Barr and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt,” reports the Associated Press. “It is tasked with developing protocols to apply to new and unsolved cases and creating a multi-jurisdictional team to review cold cases.”
During the press conference, President Trump referred to the epidemic as “sobering and heartbreaking,” arguing that the task force should have been created long ago.
“It has been going on a long time,” the president said. “We’re going to address it very strongly. The statistics are sobering and heartbreaking. Recently, more than 5,000 Native American women and girls were reported missing in a single year while a majority returned home or were found, too many are still missing and their whereabouts are unknown.”
“The victims and their families deserve action and this should have happened many years ago,” he continued. “With my order today, we are launching operation lady justice, an an inter-agency task force led by Attorney General Barr and Secretary Bernhardt to develop an aggressive government wide strategy to end this terrible situation.”
Several Native-American leaders were in attendance and thanked the president for bringing the issue to the forefront.
Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, hailed the executive order as an “important first step.”
“While there is so much that needs to be done to stop the violence perpetrated on Native women and girls, I appreciate the administration for taking an important first step in establishing this task force,” Holsey said.
According to CBS News, “the initiative will invest $1.5 million in hiring specialized coordinators in the offices of 11 U.S. attorneys who will be responsible for coming up with protocols for a more coordinated response to violence against indigenous people.”
“The plan also allows tribal or local law enforcement to seek help from the FBI, and the Justice Department is committing to conducting an in-depth review of federal databases to determine best practices for collecting data on missing indigenous persons,” the report continued.
In a statement last Friday, Attorney General William Barr referred to the epidemic of missing Native Americans as “unacceptable.”
“American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer from unacceptable and disproportionately high levels of violence, which can have lasting impacts on families and communities,” Barr said. “Too many of these families have experienced the loss of loved ones who went missing or were murdered.”
The official White House webpage laid out some important goals that Operation Lady Justice will hopefully achieve:
- Today’s executive order establishes Operation Lady Justice — an interagency task force charged with developing an aggressive, government-wide strategy to address the crisis of missing and murdered women and girls in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
- The task force will establish multi-jurisdictional teams comprising representatives from tribal and federal law enforcement to review unsolved cases.
- In addition, this new task force will promote greater cooperation among federal, local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies in responding to cases.
- To better equip communities to respond to the crisis, the task force will undertake efforts to increase public awareness of the issue.
- This executive order also directs the Department of Justice to issue grants to help improve safety in Native-American communities.