Legislature: House Bill Filed Expand And Continue Work Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force


House Bill 208, extending the work of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Task Force has been introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Sponsored by Representative Derrick Lente (D – Sandia Pueblo), Representative Andrea Romero (D – Santa Fe), and Representative Melanie Stansbury (D – Albuquerque), and introduced on Thursday, January 28, House Bill 208 enables the continuation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force for an additional year. This would allow the task force to continue investigating the disappearance of New Mexico’s indigenous women and propose policy solutions that address this critical issue and bring closure to families of victims. 

“The fact is: we’re not safe until we’re all safe,” said Rep. Derrick Lente. “The MMIW Task Force was clear in its report that there are serious gaps in the data available to accurately identify cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We’ve only started this critical work, and this bill ensures the task force’s continuation and ultimately, its policies that will address this destruction of our first nation peoples.”

“This is not just a tribal issue, this is a wider public safety issue,” said Rep. Andrea Romero. “Indigenous women are murdered at rates up to 10 times higher than other ethnicities, yet it’s been swept under the rug for generations. The work of this task force is critical and necessary if we’re to bring justice and closure to the families and loved ones of the unknown number of victims.”

“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis is affecting every community in New Mexico,” said Rep. Melanie Stansbury. “We must continue to ensure a coordinated response, provide services, and address the underlying and systemic causes of violence that impact our indigenous communities. I am proud of the work the state has done in partnership with tribal partners and survivors through the MMIW task force. This is just the beginning. There is much more work to be done.”

“It is so important that we continue the work bringing justice to the survivors of our missing and murdered Native women and relatives. The governor and these legislators give our families hope that their lives have and do matter and that they will no longer be ignored,” said Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo

“It is critically important that we support legislation that addresses the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and all indigenous relatives. House bill 208 will ensure that state agencies, local law enforcement and tribal governments are working together to address the epidemic of violence and trafficking,” said Pueblo of Tesuque Governor Mark Mitchell. “I thank the bill sponsors, Representative Lente, Representative Romero and Representative Stansbury for their work to safeguard New Mexico’s tribal citizens.”

In its latest report, the task force identified the need for increased public safety and data coordination, including basic information related to race and ethnicity, to accurately assess how many indigenous women are victims of violence throughout the state. According to some estimates, New Mexico has one of the highest number of cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. 

Currently, the task force includes seven members representing the New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs, Public Safety Department, the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe, and the Navajo Nation. Under House Bill 208, membership would expand to include the DNA People’s Legal Services, First Nations Community HealthSource, the Office of the Medical Investigator, and a representative of survivors and families who’ve lost a loved one to violence. The bill also asks for an appropriation of $50,000 to the New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs to cover expenses related to the task force. 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website and access committee meetings and House floor sessions on the Webcasts tab. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.