Mar 23 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today applauded the Senate’s passage of the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, legislation that was approved by the House of Representatives last month that would expand the AMBER Alert child abduction warning system on Native American reservations. The legislation will now be sent to the president’s desk for signature.
The bill is named for Ashlynne Mike, an 11-year old Navajo girl who was abducted and murdered in 2016. In that high profile case, authorities did not issue an AMBER Alert for Ashlynne until the day after family members reported her abduction. Tragically, thousands of other kids like Ashlynne living on Native American reservations have fallen victim to abduction. According to the FBI, more than 8,000 children are listed as missing in Indian Country today. 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 Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act 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.
“I’m proud the Senate has passed our bill, named for Ashlynne Mike, to expand the AMBER Alert child abduction warning system in Indian Country,” said Senator McCain. “This bipartisan legislation addresses serious gaps in current law that have prevented tribes from quickly issuing AMBER Alerts and helping victims like Ashlynne escape tragedy. I look forward to the president quickly signing this legislation into law so we can give tribes the resources they need to track down perpetrators and save lives.”
“Tribal lands should not be a safe haven for criminals or a weak link in our ability to find and protect children who have been abducted or run away,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Making AMBER Alerts more accessible to Indian Country is critical to improving safety on tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country. Passage of this bipartisan bill is a big win for safety on tribal lands, and I look forward to the president signing it into law. We must continue the fight to give law enforcement agencies at all levels the tools they need to prevent crimes in Indian Country and bring criminals to justice, which is why I also introduced Savanna’s Act and fight every day to keep communities in North Dakota strong and safe.”
Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM) also cosponsored the legislation.