As the Violence Against Women Act discussion moves to the Congressional side of D.C. following its Senate passing on February 12, some senators are still opposed to it. Take Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on February 21 at a town hall meeting in Indianola said non-Indians would not receive a fair trail on reservations.
The Grassley/Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) amendment was opposed to providing greater support to LGBT, undocumented, and Native women from domestic violence according to thinkprogress.org.
The main argument by members in Senate and the House has been that VAWA is unconstitutional in its tribal provisions that would give tribal governments the ability to try non-Natives for crimes against women on tribal land.
Grassley can be seen in the video below talking about juries and saying that “the jury is supposed to be a reflections of society… But under the laws of our land, you got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”
Grassley may not be aware of a couple things that should be considered in the discussion.
A recently released report by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center titled Policy Insight Brief titled, Statistics on Violence Against Native Women that states according to the 2010 U.S. Census “46 percent of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Native.” Almost half the reservation population would essentially lead to diversity on juries. The figure is as a whole in the United States, and there may be areas where this number is drastically lower, but that is where the Sixth Amendment comes in.
According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” according to thinkprogress.org. “Also, Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have aright to a jury which is ‘drawn from a fair cross section of the community’ where the trial court convenes to hear the case.”
Grassley’s Senatorial colleague, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) said it best while speaking on the Senate floor on February 7 during the VAWA hearings, “Now I want to say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, because I’ve heard some of them say that somehow this violates the civil liberties of non-Native Americans if these crimes happen in Indian country. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
“First of all, all tribal courts also adhere to the Indian Civil Rights Act which is basically our 14th Amendment. So that security of the 14th Amendment is right there in the law and will protect any non-Native American that is charged with this crime on a reservation.
“Secondly, this law has specifically broad language making sure that the defendant would be protected with all rights required by the United States in order for this jurisdiction to have oversight. So it is almost like a double protection saying twice that Habeas Corpus rights of individuals are going to be protected under this statute.
“The notion that this is somehow abrogating individual rights just because the crime takes place on a tribal reservation is incorrect. So I ask my colleagues, do you want to continue to have this unbelievable growth and petri dish of crime evolving? Because criminals know, when you have a porous border that is where they are going to go.”