VAWA Already Improving Life for Pascua Yaqui Tribe
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is making progress in Southern Arizona after being chosen to take early advantage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “So far VAWA is helping us analyze our own process and the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council is really interested in how this is going to work out,” said Amanda Lomayesva, Attorney General for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
On February 6, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon were chosen by the Obama Administration to exercise criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status, under the 2013 VAWA law.
Lomayesva (Lumbee) said the Pascua Yaqui Tribe became interested in VAWA when they wanted to expand their tribal jurisdiction. “I think it really started to gain steam in 2007 when people started talking about problems in Indian Country –about crimes that were reoccurring and not being taken care of,” said Chief Prosecutor for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Alfred Urbina.
Not to mention, the Domestic Violence is the main crime on the Pascua Yaqui reservation, he said.
Prior to the assertion of VAWA, when a non-Native American committed a crime on the Pascua Yaqui reservation, the Pascua Yaqui Police officers would drop them off on the edge of the reservation, Lomayesva said.
Also, prior to 2010, tribal members accused of a crime would only be incarcerated for one year and the Pascua Yaqui jail was not fit for anyone. The office was in a house and the jail was a cage, said Urbina (Pascua Yaqui).
In 2010, the Tribal Law and Orders Act changed that allowing the tribe to sentence criminals up to three years of incarceration per offense with a maximum of nine years.
And the tribe was able to have a multi-purpose justice complex built through a $20 Million American Reinvestment Recovery Act in 2010. “There has been a real tribal effort to address these problems and a challenge to not only our courts, but all tribal courts to protect tribal members,” said Lomayesva.
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