Floor Statements

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the following opening statement today at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs legislative hearing to consider his AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am grateful that the Committee is holding a legislative hearing on S. 722, the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017.

“The bill would reauthorize a grant program operated by the U.S. Department of Justice that assists local governments in developing their AMBER Alert ‘communication plans.’ The bill would also clarify that Indian tribes are eligible for AMBER Alert grants. Currently, tribes that participate in this grant program do so under a DOJ pilot initiative. Further, the bill would require the DOJ to implement stricter transparency and accountability standards for how tribal governments use these grants. Finally, the bill directs the DOJ to complete a needs assessment across Indian country.

“Mr. Chairman, I worry for the safety of Native American children living on reservations. According to data produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are more than 7,700 American Indian children listed as missing in the United States. Last year, the Navajo community was devastated by the abduction and murder of 11-year old Ashlynne Mike. In that high-profile case, authorities did not issue an AMBER Alert for Ashlynne until the day after a family member reported her abduction. Part of the reason for the delayed alert is that complications arise when issuing alerts across the multiple jurisdictions that span the Navajo reservation, including three states and 12 different counties. This is a problem for any Indian tribe with a large, rural land base.

“This grant program can help Indian tribes hire an in-house ‘AMBER Alert Coordinator’ to develop, train and implement the ‘communication plans’ necessary to address child abduction emergencies. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill.”