HOUSE PASSES McCAIN-HEITKAMP BILL TO EXPAND AMBER ALERT SYSTEM ON NATIVE AMERICAN RESERVATIONS
The following press release was originally posted on: https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=D8F87771-66A8-47F5-9F83-E598051004BE
Washington, D.C. – Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, legislation introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in the Senate 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 amended legislation now moves back to the Senate for final passage.
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.
“In 2016, the Navajo community 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. We must do more to ensure Native American tribes have the resources they need to quickly issue AMBER Alerts and give abduction victims the best possible chance to survive. It’s critical the Senate quickly takes up this much-needed legislation and sends it to the president’s desk.”
“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. Indian Country can often be remote and vast – and the lack of a consistent AMBER Alert system results in major delays in alerting law enforcement and community members in and around Indian Country when a child has been abducted or is missing. Every minute counts in these situations, and AMBER Alerts are a valuable tool in the critical first moments after someone goes missing. 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.”