Trump’s Indifference to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Belies His Argument to ‘Build a Wall’

The media has rightly criticized President Donald Trump for making up stories to justify his border wall. In addition, it should point out that Trump’s a hypocrite.

Trump has repeatedly told terrifying stories of women being trafficked across the Mexican border into the United States. Yet his administration has yet to provide facts to back him up. And while Trump expresses this deep concern about human trafficking, his administration has actively worked against efforts to address it here in the United States, specifically the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

A Jan. 25 Washington Post story headlined: Trump again mentioned taped-up women at the border. Experts don’t know what he is talking about, says Trump has retold these stories 10 times over the past 22 days. The article  begins:

President Trump on Friday again claimed that human traffickers taped women’s mouths at the border.

“Women are tied up, they’re bound, duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths, in many cases they can’t even breathe,” he said in the Rose Garden while discussing a deal to temporarily end the partial government shutdown. “They’re put in the backs of cars or vans or trucks.”

The story goes on to cite experts who say Trump’s claims are “divorced from reality.”

This was Trump’s cynical ploy to get his wall. Meanwhile, here are stories that belie his concern for trafficked women.

File: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March in Minneapolis (2018).

In his first week in office, Trump revived the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, actively supporting oil extraction and related projects known to increase violence against women.

Where were Trump’s concern about trafficking then? The problems were well known. Back in Sept. 28, 2014, the Washington Post ran a story called “The dark side of the boom” about the human trafficking stemming from North Dakota’s oil fracking industry:

The arrival of highly paid oil workers living in sprawling “man camps” with limited spending opportunities has led to a crime wave — including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, human trafficking and robberies — fueled by a huge market for illegal drugs, primarily heroin and methamphetamine.

For another example, the Trump administration cancelled a major federal study on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women during the transition in early 2017.  A recent story in High Country News, Why was a study on trafficking in Indian Country canceled? provides more details:

According to lead researchers, the National Institute of Justice cited “administration issues” for the scuttling of the report. Upon requests for more information, the NIJ did not elaborate further.

“This was to be the first study of its kind, and with very little explanation, it was gone,” said Meredith Dank, a research professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the study’s principal investigator. The project was set to be the only federally funded research to examine trafficking in Native communities nationally, and was considered especially vital because neither national advocacy groups nor federal agencies have made progress in tracking tribal citizens the way they track other victims of other ethnicities.

Here’s an update: In the fall of 2017, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced a bill known as Savannah’s Act, to address issues of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It was named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Nation, who was found murdered near Fargo. According to an article in The Cut:

[Savannah’s] murder is yet another instance of the ways in which the American government is ill-equipped to address cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. …

As the bill explains, “The complicated jurisdictional scheme that exists in Indian country has a significant negative impact on the ability to provide public safety to [Native] communities; has been increasingly exploited by criminals; and requires a high degree of commitment and cooperation among tribal, Federal, and State law enforcement officials.”

The bill to better coordinate information passed the U.S. Senate but was held up by one member of the U.S. House of Representatives — then Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. The bill died this past Dec. 21 when the House adjourned.

If the human trafficking were a Trump priority, surely he could have convinced Goodlatte to move the legislation.

Now the bill has to start over in the new Congressional session.

Reminder: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples March, Feb. 14

This is a march for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Boys, Two Spirit and Transgender Relatives. WEAR RED! Bring Banners, Posters, Staffs, Drums, Rattles.

Meet at the Minneapolis American Indian Center at 1530 E. Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis. Here is the Facebook Page.

Here’s the schedule:

11-11:30 a.m.: Sign In, Make Posters, Visit Information Tables, Visit Each Other!

11:30 a.m. – Noon: Opening prayer, welcome song, and guest speakers. Prepare to depart on the walk.

Noon-1 p.m.: The Walk: Depart Indian Center, to Cedar, to 26th, to Bloomington, back to Indian Center. (Vehicles will be available for Elders and Children.)

1-2 p.m.: Honor Song for those who have lost loved ones. Open microphone to share . Coffee and snacks provided by Gatherings Cafe. Closing remarks.

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