James Ramos continues to push to raise awareness and secure resources to address the MMIP crisis in California

SACRAMENTO – A bill to designate May as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness month in California has passed the state Assembly and Senate.

Last week, the Senate voted 37-0 on May 25 to advance the bill, Assembly Concurring Resolution No. 25 (ACR 25), after the Assembly voted 13-0 on May 4.

ACR 25 was introduced by Assemblyman James Ramos, Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe, to raise awareness of MMIP throughout California and increase support for tribal governments in their communities.

“This is something that we have been working on for many years, and it is now (that) we have finally reached the state assembly and state legislators,” Ramos said, “We can raise the level of awareness with our colleagues and introduce laws without have to be pressured.”

Advocating for indigenous issues has not been easy for Ramos, but she has been able to overcome obstacles.

“I showed up last year to give the capital a red light, and they denied me. But now, I sit as the president of the Rules Community and have endorsed the capital lighting,” Ramos said, “So, it’s a testament that representation really matters.”

Previous approved bills

The passage of ACR-25 is the latest in a series of bills Ramos has championed to help raise awareness and secure funding to address the MMIP crisis in California.

Ramos sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 3099 in 2020 to provide law enforcement training on missing and murdered Native Americans. He also sponsored AB 1314, which created the Feather Alert program in 2022.

(Photo: Cyrus Norcross) PICTURED: Assemblyman James Ramos with his staff, District Director Vanessa Brietry (left) and Chief of Staff Adriana Ruelas (right), in the Willie Brown Room after Assembly Bill 25 passed on May 4. (Photo: Cyrus Norcross)

Assembly Bill 3099 supports improving investigative resources and reducing the rate of missing and murdered indigenous peoples, provides guidance for local law enforcement on surveillance and criminal investigations on tribal lands, better crime reporting and crime statistics, and better communication between law enforcement and tribal governments.

Assembly Bill 1314 is the Feather Alert, which is similar to an AMBER Alert and can be activated when an Indian person is missing or a law enforcement agency believes a person is in danger. Feather Alert will provide information to the public in hopes of quickly recovering the missing indigenous person.

Even with the passage of recent legislation and unanimous support for ACR-25 in the Assembly, Ramos told Native News Online there is still a long way to go in California when it comes to MMIP issues.

Public Law 280

Ramos points to a 70-year-old law as an example of state legislation that has hampered tribal law enforcement efforts to address crimes related to human trafficking, missing persons and homicides on tribal land.

In 1953, Congress passed Public Law 82-280, which removed federal criminal jurisdiction over most felony crimes committed on reservations and gave jurisdiction to six states—Alaska, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin—over Native Americans on reservations. The law allowed civil disputes, originally handled by tribal or federal courts, to be handled by state courts.

Tribal nations were not consulted or required their consent at the time of the passage of Public Law 280.

According to the National Institute of Justice, the research, development, and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice, the consequences of Public Law 280 are as follows:

  • The law violates tribal sovereignty by granting criminal jurisdiction to states.
  • The law is often cited as a justification for denying tribes PL 280 funding for law enforcement.
  • The law gives non-tribal law enforcement greater authority on tribal reservations. For example, prior to PL 280, misdemeanor crimes committed by American Indians and Alaska Natives were the responsibility of tribes. Under PL 280, misdemeanors may also be punishable by state law.

Ramos and California tribal leaders are determined to combat the effects of Public Law 280.

Two tribes declared a state of emergency in response to missing and murdered indigenous peoples. The Round Valley Indian Tribes declared a state of emergency on April 16, 2023, while the Yurok Tribe declared an emergency on December 17, 2021.

“California is moving in the wrong direction and we need allies in our fight to raise awareness and resources for California’s first people,” Ramos said.

Telecommunications for law enforcement

Ramos has also moved to help secure funding for tribal law enforcement this year. He introduced Assembly Bill 44 on January 1, 2023, which will allow federally recognized tribal law enforcement agencies to request access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). .

CLETS is a crime information network that connects agencies with criminal records, driving records, federal databases, and allows agencies to send and receive messages between each other.

“CLETS is a tool that identifies people with criminal records, so that tribal governments know who is coming to their land, such as those who have been involved in kidnappings and kidnappings,” Ramos said. “If they come to tribal land, the tribal government should know about it. That is the disconnect at least for information and data to flow, so we are proactively protecting our people.”

Within the CLETS state government code, it is mentioned that a law enforcement program must be a public agency, ie, municipal, county, state, or federal.

The code does not mention tribes or their respective agencies within CLETS, so tribal law enforcement was not allowed access. Without access to CLETS, tribal police lack the resources to conduct a thorough investigation.

By gaining access to CLETS, tribal police will be able to view criminal history information, missing and unidentified person files, protection order files, and violent person files.

On September 16, 2014, the Sycuan Tribal Police were granted access to CLETS. All Sycuan officers were commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and it is the BIA, a public agency, that requested CLETS to have their officers use the system. The relationship that developed between the Sycuan tribal police and the local police, due to access to CLETS, helped solve crimes within their respective communities.

“We need to start breaking down the public safety hurdles, ensuring that public safety continues to be free-flowing information to protect not only the vulnerable in the state of California, but also to include California Native Americans,” Ramos said. .

“It’s a daunting task, because when we hear speeches that we’re protecting the most vulnerable in California, we always have to insert ‘California Native American peoples’ and Native Americans in general,” Ramos said. “It is not a fact that they are part of that structure.”

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About the Author

Cyrus Norcross

Author: Cyrus Norcross Email: This e-mail address is protected against spambots. You need to enable JavaScript to view it.

Cyrus Norcross (Dine) is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in the Navajo Times, Source New Mexico, Durango Herald and other publications.