Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) continued to seek answers from the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the killing of Fairfax County resident Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police (USPP) officers in 2017. For over two years, Sen. Warner has sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force, the FBI’s review of the case, and the handling of the incident by the Department of the Interior.

“I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification,” wrote Sen. Warner. “One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner pointed to contradictory comments from USPP regarding the status of an internal affairs investigation into the officers that were involved in the incident. In response, Sen. Warner requested answers to a number of questions regarding the Department of the Interior’s position on such an investigation: 

  1. Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter. 
  1. Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.
  1. In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.[1]

    How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 
  1. When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letterto the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting.

A copy of today’s letter is available here and below.

 

July 24, 2020

The Honorable David Vela

Acting Director

National Park Service

1849 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20240 

Dear Acting Director Vela: 

Thank you for the letter, sent June 3, 2020, which aimed to respond to a letter Senator Grassley and I sent to you on November 1, 2019, that raised serious questions regarding the National Park Service’s (NPS) and United States Park Police’s (USPP) handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case. While I appreciate that you responded, I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification.

One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident. In response to my question regarding the status of a potential internal affairs investigation, you replied that “the National Park Service (NPS) does not typically comment on the substance or specific aspect of such reviews before they are complete,” and “[w]e can confirm that the Department has begun evaluating next steps in the context of pending cases and possible criminal action by the Fairfax County Prosecutor’s Office.” However, on May 20, 2020, a representative for USPP commented, “no internal affairs investigation of this case will begin until after a decision is made by Fairfax on filing criminal charges.”  While other questions remain surrounding the Department’s handling of Bijan’s shooting, I have a number of specific questions regarding the Department’s position on a potential internal affairs investigation.

1.           Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter.

2.           Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.

3.           In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.  

How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 

4.           When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

Thank you for your attention to the questions outlined above. Should you or your staff have any questions regarding this request, please contact my staff.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to introduce the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which would block the Trump Administration from deploying federal agents as paramilitary forces against Americans. The action comes after a week in which heavily armed federal forces without uniform identification in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the street in Portland, Oregon. Those forces have deployed munitions and tear gas against protesters. 

“What we’ve seen in Portland these last two weeks is an outrage and should never be accepted in the U.S.,” the Senators said. “President Trump is using completely unjustified and unconstitutional intimidation tactics against American citizens over the objections of state and local officials. This bill makes it clear that unidentified officers cannot trample on the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  1. Require individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers and prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests.
  2. Limit federal agents’ crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor.
  3. Require disclosure on an agency website within 24 hours of deployments specifying the number of personnel and purposes of deployment.
  4. Make arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.

The bill was also introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Kaine previously introduced a successful NDAA amendment to prevent the use of military funds or personnel against American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

The full text of the Senate NDAA amendment can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Ben Cardin (MD), and Tim Kaine (VA) today hosted a virtual hearing to examine why Washington, D.C. should become the country’s 51st state. The hearing, titled, “Statehood and Equality for Washington, D.C.,” focused on the statehood process outlined in the Washington, D.C. Admission Act. It also focused on the need to provide voting representation in Congress and full local self-government to the more than 700,000 residents of the current District of Columbia.  

The Senators heard testimony from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Muriel Bowser, Monica Hopkins with the American Civil Liberties Union, Rick Lee, the owner of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, and James Nelson Rimensnyder, veteran and lifelong D.C. resident. A video hearing of the hearing can be viewed here.

“It’s about time that the District’s 700,000 residents get proper representation in Congress and a say over how their federal dollars are spent,” said Senator Warner. “I’ve supported a Senate bill to make Washington D.C. the 51st state and I’m going to keep pushing until Virginia’s neighbors receive the same level representation they would get in any other part of our country.”

“I am grateful for our witnesses today who spoke about what statehood would mean for Washington D.C. residents. For far too long, the people of D.C. have been denied full representation in our Democracy. Meanwhile, they keep our federal government running, serve in our military and pay federal taxes. Now is the time to act and pass H.R. 51 the Washington, D.C. Admission Act,” said Senator Stabenow.

“People often ask me why a U.S. Senator from Delaware would spend his time trying to get statehood for Washington, D.C. I tell them that, to me, this issue is all about fairness. I point them to the Golden Rule – treat other people the way you would want to be treated. In Delaware, we have a little less than a million people. We have two senators and a congresswoman who have a vote in Congress. The same goes for Wyoming and Vermont, two of the smallest states with even fewer people than Delaware and DC. Nobody would dare suggest that they or any of our smaller states don’t deserve to have representation in Congress. Yet we’ve left nearly 700,000 DC residents – the majority of whom are people of color – with no voice in this body,” said Senator Carper. “These U.S. taxpayers work, study, raise families, start businesses and serve in our military. In fact, DC residents have fought in every single American war, yet have never been afforded the right to have their voices heard on those wars in Congress. And DC residents pay more in federal taxes per capita than citizens of any other state, yet they aren’t able to have a say in how those taxes are spent. It’s why for years, Congresswoman Norton and I have reintroduced our DC Statehood bills in both Chambers – and I am so proud that last week, the House voted to advance the Congresswoman’s version and right this wrong. Here in the Senate, we still have work to do, but today’s hearing is a promising step. I want to thank Senator Stabenow for hosting today’s discussion and Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Bowser, and other leaders in this fight for appearing today and for their work to further the cause of full voting rights and equality for the people who live here in our nation’s capital. Together, we will get this done.”

“For far too long the people of the District of Columbia have faced taxation without representation. And the need for urgent action has only been further underscored by recent events. The District has been denied the basic right of self-governance even though its residents pay more in taxes than 22 other states – and the population of D.C. is greater than Wyoming and Vermont. The message we heard today was clear – now that the House has acted, Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell must immediately bring this bill up for Senate consideration. It’s time for Republicans to stop treating the citizens of the District of Columbia as second class citizens and recognize their most basic right to have voting representation in the Senate and House,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Our Constitution guarantees a right to representation for all citizens, yet we are the only democratic country in the world where citizens of our capital do not have a vote in their national legislature. The U.S. is an outlier. This is a violation of basic human rights that needs to be corrected,” said Senator Cardin. “Human rights should not be a partisan issue. Full voting rights and representation for the 700,000 citizens of the District of Columbia should not be a partisan issue. Statehood is long overdue.” 

“D.C. deserves statehood. It has long met the criteria that we’ve applied throughout our history for becoming a state,” said Senator Kaine. “Making D.C. the 51st state is about protecting the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of Americans. I’m proud to support this effort.”  

On January 3, 2019, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) introduced H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would admit the new State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state of the United States and reduce the size of the federal district. The House of Representatives voted to approve the bill by a vote of 232-180 on June 26, 2020, marking the first time a chamber of Congress has passed the D.C. statehood bill.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on the House of Representatives’ passage of legislation to immediately remove the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), paving the way for full and equal protections to women in the Constitution. In November, Warner and Kaine cosponsored similar legislation in the Senate, S.J. Res. 6, with Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to remove the ERA deadline. Last month, the Virginia General Assembly passed a historic resolution to make Virginia the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA. 

“We’re thrilled the House has passed legislation to ensure there’s still time to ratify the ERA, and we urge the Senate to follow suit. We’re so proud Virginia made history last month by becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Passing this legislation in the Senate would honor the tireless work of all who worked on this historic effort,” said the Senators. “It’s unacceptable that one hundred years after ratification of the 19th amendment, women are still not explicitly recognized as equal under our Constitution. The ERA is critical to finally guarantee equal protections to women and bolster our ability to fight gender discrimination.” 

Article V of the Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of amendments, and the states finally ratified the Twenty-Seventh Amendment in 1992 regarding Congressional pay raises more than 200 years after Congress proposed it in 1789 as part of the original Bill of Rights. The ERA time limit was contained in a joint resolution, not the actual text of the amendment, and Congress has already once voted to extend the ERA ratification deadline. The bipartisan resolution sponsored by Warner and Kaine would put to bed any potential ambiguity over adding the ERA to the Constitution.

The Equal Rights Amendment would finally give women full and equal protection under the Constitution. It reads as follows:

Section 1.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2.  The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3.  This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today released the following statement after the General Assembly passed a historic resolution to make Virginia the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):

“It’s about time for women’s equal rights to be explicitly declared in our Constitution and we’re thrilled that Virginia will be the last state necessary to move this effort towards the finish line,” said the Senators. “Ratifying the ERA not only honors the work of all those who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s equality, but also enhances our legal ability to fight future instances of gender-based discrimination throughout the country. We applaud Senator McClellan, Senator Locke, and Delegate Carroll Foy for their work on this resolution, and commend every advocate and activist across Virginia who has been a part of this important movement.” 

A proposed constitutional amendment must be ratified by 38 states in order to be eligible to become part of the Constitution. This resolution makes Virginia the 38th state needed to guarantee women equal rights in the Constitution.

The ERA reads as follows:

Section 1.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2.  The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3.  This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In November, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in sponsoring a bipartisan Senate resolution to immediately remove the ratification deadline for the ERA and eliminate any ambiguity that may exist at the federal level.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police in 2017. The FBI announced the conclusion to its lengthy investigation last week, but did not fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar.

The senators have long sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the deadly use of force and the FBI’s review of the case, but the FBI largely declined to provide details at the time, citing an ongoing investigation. Now that the investigation has concluded, the senators are demanding greater clarity to provide needed transparency and preserve the public trust.

“Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death,” the Senators wrote.

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted the FBI about the investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded in March with little information, provoking a follow-up letter from Grassley.

In June, Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

Following the recent conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, the senators pledged to seek greater transparency. Full text of the senators’ official request for a briefing follows. A copy of the letter is available here.

 

November 20, 2019

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigations

Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We write today to request a briefing and a response to Senator Warner’s letter from January 30, 2018, Senator Grassley’s letters from December 17, 2018, and March 22, 2019, and the Senators’ joint letter from June 18, 2019, on the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar.  While the FBI has announced it has concluded its investigation into the shooting of Mr. Ghaisar, the FBI has continuously refused to answer several questions that were raised in the aforementioned letters because the investigation had yet to conclude.  Now that the investigation has concluded, we expect to receive answers to these questions and a briefing on the FBI’s investigative process and findings. 

Investigations into the use of deadly force must be handled in a way that reinforces public confidence in law enforcement.  Following completion of these types of investigations, it is necessary for investigators to be fully transparent to ensure that the public understands the circumstances of each incident.  This creates transparency and builds public trust in law enforcement.  Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death.

In order to shed light on this delicate situation, we ask that you respond to Senator Grassley’s and Warner’s letters and provide us with a briefing summarizing the findings of this investigation by no later than December 15, 2019.   Additionally, we ask that you please arrange a time to provide our staffs with a briefing no later than December 6, 2019.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

Mark Warner

United States Senator

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – As incidents of hate crimes continue to rise, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. The legislation would improve hate crimes reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) in the House of Representatives. 

“In 2017, Heather Heyer lost her life fighting the forces of hatred and white supremacy. But since the horrible events in Charlottesville nearly two years ago, we have continued to see an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the country,” said Warner. “We owe it to Heather and the victims of hate crimes everywhere to do everything we can to stamp out the voices of hatred that have been promoting violence against Jews, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable Americans.” 

“We all need to come together to combat this onslaught of hate crimes. Virginians have seen too many horrific acts of hate, including when white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville and murdered Heather Heyer. Those of us in leadership need to stand up against hate and do everything in our power to support those who are hurt by it,” Kaine said

“The rise in hate crimes in the United States has reached epidemic proportions in the last few years, and we need law enforcement to have every possible tool to stop it,” said Beyer. “By tracking and reporting incidents of hate crimes nationwide, we can know whether we are making progress towards their prevention. I thank my colleague, Rep. Olson, for his leadership; this legislation has a real chance to move forward.” 

“Everyone knows my daughter’s name,” said Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother. “Heather is everywhere—in the news, in our minds, in our hearts—but she’s not in the data, nor are the 35 people who were injured while marching alongside her in Charlottesville. If such a despicable act of hatred is not reflected in hate crime statistics, think of everything else that might be missing. The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act is an important bill that will improve our response to hate crime, and I call on Congress to support this effort.”

“After Khalid was killed, our family released a statement expressing that his death was not just another murder to be added to crime statistics, that the circumstances surrounding his death laid bare the need for a better response from law enforcement and the justice system,” said Rami Jabara, Khalid Jabara’s brother. “In retrospect, we shouldn’t have assumed his death would be there reflected in the data, despite how straightforward that may have seemed. Congress must pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. No family should be subjected to what we endured and victims’ voices should be heard.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following President Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992. Yet the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report vastly understates the true incidence of this problem. In 2017, the report reflected that approximately 7,000 hate crimes occurred nationwide, when the SPLC believes the number is closer to approximately 250,000 per year.

The Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act would help combat the recent surge in hate crimes by:

  • Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes: This legislation will improve reporting of hate crimes by supporting the implementation of and training for NIBRS, the latest crime reporting standard, in law enforcement agencies without it. This will allow law enforcement agencies to record and report detailed information about crimes, including hate crimes, to the FBI. In 2016, of the 15,254 agencies that participated in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, nearly nine out of 10 reported zero hate crimes; in Mississippi, agencies reported just seven incidents in the entire state. Helping law enforcement agencies recognize and report detailed information on hate crimes and report that data to the FBI will help establish a clear picture of the threats that vulnerable communities are facing across the country.
  • Encouraging Law Enforcement Prevention, Training, and Education on Hate Crimes: This legislation will provide support to law enforcement agencies that establish a policy on identifying, investigating and reporting hate crimes, train officers on how to identify hate crimes, develop a system for collecting hate crimes data, establish a hate crimes unit within the agency, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes in that jurisdiction. 
  • Establishing Hate Crime Hotlines: This legislation will provide grants for states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, to record information about hate crimes, and to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed. This will make sure that hate crimes don’t go unreported and victims get the help that they need. 
  • Allowing Judges to Require Community Service or Education for Perpetrators of Hate Crimes: This legislation will allow for judges to require individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime.

The bill is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union; the Arab American Institute; Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino; the Heather Heyer Foundation; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Muslim Advocates; the National Center for Transgender Equality; the National Disability Rights Network; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); and the Sikh Coalition.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 44 of their Senate colleagues to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 to restore and strengthen the landmark Voting Rights Act

“There is no more sacred right as an American than the right to vote. Unfortunately, more than 50 years after the enactment of the landmark Voting Rights Act, and particularly after the Shelby County decision, many Americans still face barriers to fair participation in our elections,” said Warner. “This bill would restore the vital voter protections to ensure that all Americans have the unfettered access to the ballot box.”

“The right to vote is at the heart of American democracy, but hundreds of thousands of people are still denied that right today,” said Kaine. “More than 50 years after the original Voting Rights Act, Congress must not allow systematic disenfranchisement to continue to plague our elections. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort to protect voting rights and ensure voting is no longer treated as a privilege.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act, consequently crippling the federal government’s ability to prevent discriminatory changes to state voting laws and procedures. In the wake of Shelby County, states across the country unleashed a torrent of voting restrictions that have made voting more difficult and systematically disenfranchised communities of color. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, improve and modernize the landmark legislation, and provide the federal government with other critical tools to combat what has become a full-fledged assault on Americans’ right to vote.

Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 is also cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The legislation is also supported by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center For Justice, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Human Rights Campaign.

The full text of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 can be found here.

An outline of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 can be found here.

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PROVIDENCE FORGE, VA – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) attended the 67th annual Chickahominy Pow Wow over the weekend to celebrate the tribe's recently secured federal recognition. Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Rep. Rob Wittman, passed legislation in January finally granting the tribe recognition centuries after the Chickahominy and five other Virginia tribes first made contact with  English settlers. Sen. Warner participated in the Pow Wow Grand Entry, a ceremony honoring veterans in attendance, and greeted the crowd of several hundred, alongside Chickahominy Chief Stephen R. Adkins, State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Del. Lamont Bagby, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson and other local officials.

“It should not have taken 341 years to get federal recognition for the Chickahominy people, but I'm glad to be here celebrating this long overdue victory,” said Sen. Warner. “All of Virginia's tribes pay such respect to our country and to our veterans, and it was a moral slight that they did not have this recognition until this year. The day when Chief Adkins and the other chiefs of Virginia's tribes sat in the Senate gallery as we won federal recognition was one of my proudest days this year.”

"The Chickahominy are a sovereign nation within these United States," said Chief Adkins. "Federal recognition wouldn't have happened without Sen. Warner, Sen. Kaine, Congressman Wittman, their staffs and many others who worked on this bill. But as Sen. Warner remarked, there was a spiritual atmosphere in the Senate on the day the recognition bill passed. All of us know what that spirit is. So praise God, the Creator was on our side."

The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act was signed into law on January 29, 2018, after decades of bipartisan efforts by Virginia’s elected officials. Sens. Warner and Kaine secured final passage of the bill earlier that month. Six Virginia tribes—the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond— now have the federal recognition they have waited centuries for. Many of these tribes include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

This federal recognition allows Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it allows tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

For more information on the Chickahominy Pow Wow, you can visit the Chickahominy Tribe's website.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11-12, 2017 that claimed the lives of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates:

“Today we remember the lives lost following the deadly rally that occurred a year ago in Charlottesville, when a group of white nationalists came to a peaceful Virginia town seeking to use hate and division to incite violence against fair-minded, innocent civilians. Their words and their actions betrayed President Lincoln’s appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature,’ forcing us to confront some of the demons that still plague our society today. These purveyors of hate and bigotry were emboldened to take their message public by a President who has refused to categorically and unequivocally condemn their message and actions in clear terms.

“Let us take a moment today to celebrate and honor the lives of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates. As we honor their memories, we must also continue to heal the racial wounds of our past. We must show that what sets us apart as citizens of this country are our values of respect, openness, and tolerance towards one another. Without that, we cannot fulfill the promise of a more perfect union.”

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One Year After Deadly Charlottesville Rally, Warner & Kaine Press DOJ for Updates on Combating Racial Hate

Letter presses the Administration on carrying out actions to combat hate crimes as outlined in joint resolution led last year by Warner and Kaine

Aug 10 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) wrote a letter to John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ), pressing for more answers on how the Administration is implementing actions specifically outlined by S.J.Res.49, a joint resolution condemning racial hate and directing a coordinated federal effort to address hate violence, following the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11 and August 12, 2017.

The bipartisan resolution introduced by Sens. Warner and Kaine along with Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), unanimously passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by President Trump on September 14, 2017. The resolution explicitly condemned white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups involved in prompting the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Va. that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, injured several others, and led to the deaths of two Virginia state troopers responding to the violence. Additionally, the resolution outlined specific actions for the Administration to take to fight hate violence, including thoroughly investigating all acts of hate crimes and domestic terrorism by hate groups, and calling upon the Administration to “use all resources available to the President and the President's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

Now, nearly one year after the bipartisan resolution was signed into law by President Trump, Sens. Warner and Kaine are pressing for answers on actions the Administration is taking - or not taking - to uphold the terms of the resolution calling for a coordinated federal effort to fight hate violence. 

“We are particularly interested if you have implemented, or plan to implement, the following: the creation of a task force dedicated to addressing hate violence, sufficient funding for civil rights offices, robust data collection procedures to document the prevalence and nature of hate crimes in the U.S., a federal website on hate violence to convene resources and communicate effectively to the public, the development of incentives for participation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hate Crime Statistics Act reports, increased training and education for jurisdictions that underreport hate crimes, and the use of grants to promote strong enforcement on these issues,” wrote the Senators.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

 

John M. Gore
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Acting Assistant Attorney General Gore:

Nearly one year has passed since the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia between August 11 and August 12, 2017. As the one year anniversary of that tragedy approaches, we write regarding the progress made by the Department of Justice in carrying out the actions called for in S.J.Res.49, a joint resolution condemning that event.

President Trump signed the resolution into law (P.L. 115-58) on September 14, 2017. As Virginia’s Senators, we led the effort that unanimously passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by the President. The legislation rejects White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urges action from the President and his administration to combat this growing threat.

Specifically, the law urges the Attorney General to work with “the Secretary of Homeland Security to investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by these groups to determine if any criminal laws have been violated and to prevent those groups from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.” Further, the law directs the Attorney General to collaborate with “the heads of other Federal agencies to improve the reporting of hate crimes and to emphasize the importance of the collection, and the reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of hate crime data by State and local agencies.”

More broadly, the law directs the administration to use all available resources to address the growing prevalence of hate groups.

Given the direction provided to the Department of Justice in this legislation, we request that you provide our offices an update within 30 days of receipt of this letter on activities that you have undertaken in furtherance of the provisions of S.J. Res 49, as well as a full report on the multi-agency efforts on hate crimes data collection.

As you implement this request, we are particularly interested if you have implemented, or plan to implement, the following: the creation of a task force dedicated to addressing hate violence, sufficient funding for civil rights offices, robust data collection procedures to document the prevalence and nature of hate crimes in the U.S., a federal website on hate violence to convene resources and communicate effectively to the public, the development of incentives for participation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hate Crime Statistics Act reports, increased training and education for jurisdictions that underreport hate crimes, and the use of grants to promote strong enforcement on these issues.

We appreciate your attention on this important matter and look forward to your response within 30 days.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined more than two hundred of their Senate and House colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar expressing opposition to the implementation of a domestic gag rule on Title X, the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive services. This new gag rule would interfere with doctors’ ability to provide patients information about reproductive care. According to reports, President Trump could direct HHS to implement the rule as early as this month. 

Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams that include breast and pelvic examinations along with a pap smear. In Virginia, more than 140 health centers rely on Title X funding. In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of health care, Title X providers can offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options-including parenting, adoption, and abortion.

"The domestic gag rule would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health," wrote the Senators. "We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind."

Reinstatement of the gag rule, which has never been fully implemented, would be President Trump's latest attempt to fulfill his pledge to "defund Planned Parenthood," whose health centers serve 40 percent of the patients who go to Title X for contraceptive care. If Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title X-funded provider, other Title X-funded health centers would have to expand their contraceptive caseloads by an average of 70 percent. The move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and could reverse progress made in critical areas. Title X has helped women avoid 822,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 387,000 unplanned births and 278,000 abortions. Title X also yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system - every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs.

Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43 percent of patients are uninsured. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded health centers provided 720,000 Pap tests, nearly one million women with breast exams, and 1.2 million HIV tests. Title X providers offer confidential, medically accurate, and evidence-based care. Implementing a domestic gag rule would do enormous harm to the millions of patients across the country who count on the high standard of medical care provided by these health centers.

The full text of the Senate letter can be found here and below. 

Dear Secretary Azar,

We are writing today in support of the Title X family planning program (Title X) and to express our strong opposition to any changes to Title X that would restrict access to affordable, high-quality and lifesaving reproductive healthcare in communities across the country.

Title X is the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing family planning services to low-income and otherwise underserved individuals. Each year, roughly four million women, men, and adolescents rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams. Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43% of patients are uninsured. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded health centers performed 720,000 Pap tests, provided nearly one million women with breast exams, and administered 1.2 million HIV tests. Title X providers offer confidential, medically accurate, and evidence-based care, ensuring that patients receive the highest standard of medical care.

In addition to providing care to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals, Title X yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system. Every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs. By helping individuals obtain the preventive services they need, Title X advances the health and well-being of individuals, families and our nation as a whole while saving taxpayer dollars in the process.

In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of healthcare, Title X providers offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption and abortion. The Title X program has never funded abortion services at its health centers. Health centers that receive Title X to provide family planning care may also separately provide abortions using non-federal funds. 

In spite of the critical role that Title X-funded health centers play in promoting the health and wellbeing of millions of people, President Trump may seek to dramatically reduce the reach of Title X by reinstating the “domestic gag rule,” which was first issued under the Reagan administration but was never fully implemented.  This “gag rule” would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health. This means that the millions of patients who obtain care at Title X-funded health centers annually would be denied the ability to receive complete and accurate information about their medical options, including counseling on, and referrals, for abortion. On top of the ban on counseling and referrals, the “gag rule” would impose additional requirements intended to bar providers from participating in Title X that also separately provide abortion services. 

Calls to reinstate these policies directly acknowledge this effort as an opportunity for President Trump to fulfill his pledge to “defund Planned Parenthood,” whose health centers remain an essential part of the family planning safety net, serving 40 percent of Title X patients. In reality, other providers of Title X-funded care would face immense challenges in attempting to absorb the patients that would lose access to care if Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title X-funded provider. According to recent analyses, other Title X-funded providers would have to expand their contraceptive caseloads by an average of 70 percent just to maintain access to contraceptive care at current levels. 

A “domestic gag rule” would have a devastating impact on the overall Title X network and the millions of individuals who rely on it for care. This move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and it could reverse progress made in critical areas. For example, unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S.—including those among teenagers—have been declining.  We cannot threaten to reverse this progress by crippling Title X: in 2015 alone, the contraceptive services supported by Title X helped women to avoid 822,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 387,000 unplanned births and 278,000 abortions.

We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) today requested that Bureau of Indian Affairs schedule a briefing as soon as possible with six newly federally recognized tribes in Virginia so that they can fully understand what benefits and resources will now be available to them after a successful, decades-long effort to secure federal recognition. Congress last month passed and the president signed into law H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, which for the first time grants federal recognition to six Virginia tribes.

“As new federally recognized tribes, the Chickahominy, the Chickahominy - Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond, have a right to understand all the benefits and resources that are available to them under this designation,” wrote the members in a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose Department oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

 The tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but until now had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. It also allows the tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

“Now, after many years, these individuals have the opportunity to fully reclaim their heritage and take advantage of a designation that has been withheld from them for far too long,” Sen. Warner, Sen. Kaine and Rep. Wittman wrote. “Due to the amount of time it has taken these tribes to acquire federal recognition status, we are requesting that this briefing take place as soon as possible, so these tribes can appropriately plan for the next year and beyond. We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.”

The text of today’s letter appears below.

 

February 7, 2018

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

United States Department of Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write today to request a comprehensive briefing on federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for the six newly federally recognized tribes in Virginia. As new federally recognized tribes, the Chickahominy, the Chickahominy—Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond, have a right to understand all the benefits and resources that are available to them under this designation.

After nearly twenty years of inaction, Congress passed the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017 (H.R.984) on January 11, 2018. President Donald J. Trump signed this historic bill into law on January 29, 2018. This legislation grants federal recognition status to six Virginia tribes, whose ancestors played a pivotal role in our nation’s history. All the aforementioned tribes are recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and several were a part of the oldest recognized treaty in the country – the Treaty of Middle Plantation (1677).

While these six Virginia Indian tribes were formally recognized by the British and the Commonwealth of Virginia, they were not able to attain formal recognition status by the United States government for decades. Many of the tribes’ official documents were destroyed in the burning of Virginia’s courthouses during the Civil War, and the remnants of their records were lost through the passage of a Virginia law, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which almost erased the identities of these tribes. Now, after many years, these individuals have the opportunity to fully reclaim their heritage and take advantage of a designation that has been withheld from them for far too long.

Due to the amount of time it has taken these tribes to acquire federal recognition status, we are requesting that this briefing take place as soon as possible, so these tribes can appropriately plan for the next year and beyond. We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner celebrated the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017 finally being signed into law, after decades of bipartisan efforts by Virginia’s elected officials. Kaine and Warner secured final passage of the bill earlier this month. Six Virginia tribes—the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond—will now have the federal recognition they have waited centuries for. Many of these tribes include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

“Today closes a chapter on a decades-long pursuit of justice for Virginia’s tribes,” the Senators said. “Virginia’s tribes have loved and served this nation, and today our country is finally honoring them with the recognition they deserve. We are inspired by the tribes’ leaders who never gave up and thankful to our colleagues Representatives Connolly, Beyer, and Scott, and Wittman for working with us to ensure this was the year that we righted a historical wrong.”

This federal recognition allows Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it allows tribes to:

· Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
· Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
· Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner secured final passage of the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. Once signed by the President, the legislation will grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. Many of these include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. Kaine and Warner worked with Democratic and Republican colleagues to ensure that the bill made it through to final passage. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. 

U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives from Virginia have pushed for federal recognition since the 1990s, with Senators George Allen and John Warner first introducing this legislation in the Senate in 2002. Kaine and Warner introduced this legislation in the Senate in the 113thand 114th Congresses, and Warner had introduced it in prior Congresses.

“This is about Virginia tribes that were here and encountered the English when they arrived in [Jamestown] in 1607, the tribes of Pocahontas and other wonderful Virginians. They are living tribes, never recognized by the federal government for a series of reasons. . . . It's a fundamental issue of respect, and fairly acknowledging a historical record, and a wonderful story of tribes that are living, thriving and surviving and are a rich part of our heritage. This is a happy day to stand up on their behalf,” Senator Kaine said on the Senate floor ahead of passage. 

“We and some of the folks who are in the gallery today were not sure this day would ever come, but even here in the United States Congress and the United States Senate, occasionally we get things right. And boy, oh, boy, this is a day where we get things right on a civil rights basis, on a moral basis, on a fairness basis, and to our friends who are representatives of some of the six tribes who are finally going to be granted federal recognition, we want to say thank you for their patience, their perseverance, their willingness to work with us and others,” Senator Warner said on the Senate floor ahead of passage. 

This version, which originated in the House of Representatives and was introduced by Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, passed in the House unanimously in May. 

Congressman Wittman said, “Today we have taken a critical step forward in correcting the Federal Government’s failure to recognize the ‘first contact' tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Decades in the making, federal recognition will acknowledge and protect historical and cultural identities of these tribes for the benefit of all Americans. It will also affirm the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Virginia tribes, and help create opportunities to enhance and protect the well-being of tribal members. I want to thank Senators Kaine and Warner for their support to give these tribes the recognition they have long deserved.”

Once signed by the President, federal recognition will allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to: 

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

These tribal leaders were in attendance in the Senate Gallery for the vote:

  • W. Frank Adams, Chief, Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
  • Stephen R. Adkins, Chief, Chickahominy Indian Tribe
  • Wayne B. Adkins, Chair of VITAL
  • Dean Branham, Chief, Monacan Nation
  • Lee Lockamy, Chief Nansemond Indian Tribe
  • Frank Richardson, representing Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe
  • Gerald A. Stewart, Assistant Chief, Eastern Chickahominy Indian Tribe 

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