Nov 30 2017
Washington, D.C. – Last night, the Senate unanimously passed the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017, legislation cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) that would expand the AMBER Alert child abduction warning system on Native American reservations. Specifically, the legislation would clarify that Indian tribes are eligible for Department of Justice (DOJ) grants that help assemble AMBER Alert systems for law enforcement agencies.
The DOJ currently operates a pilot program that offers AMBER Alert training services to Native American tribes, but the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017 would make that initiative permanent and enhance DOJ oversight of how the grants are used. The legislation would also reauthorize the DOJ grant program that assists state and local governments in developing and implementing AMBER Alert communication plans. These communication plans are used by law enforcement agencies to expedite child abduction alerts to the public. The bill would also require the DOJ to perform a needs assessment of AMBER Alert capabilities on Indian reservations.
“Last year, Navajo Nation was devastated by the abduction and murder of 11-year old Ashlynne Mike,” said Senator McCain. “In that high profile case, authorities did not issue an AMBER Alert for Ashlynne until the day after family members reported her abduction. According to FBI statistics, more than 7,500 Native American children are listed as missing in the United States today. We must protect the most vulnerable individuals in Indian Country, and this legislation is an important step forward in that effort.”
“Native American children are some of the most vulnerable children in the country, yet there isn’t an AMBER Alert system in much of Indian Country, and that makes it very difficult to recover children who have been abducted or who have run away,” Senator Heitkamp said. “That must change, and that’s why I introduced this bipartisan bill with Senator John McCain to expand this lifesaving system to some of the most vulnerable children in our country – those in Indian Country. The Senate passing this bill is an important step forward, and I encourage the House of Representatives to pass it as soon as possible so the president can sign it in to law. This is part of a broader effort raise awareness and bring better systems of justice to Indian Country, and to give law enforcement agencies at all levels the tools they need to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice so we can keep all our communities strong and safe. Both this bill and Savanna’s Act which I introduced to help address the crisis of missing and murdered native women and girls would make important strides.”
The legislation is here.