WASHINGTON – Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Will Hurd (TX-23) today joined Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to introduce the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2018, a bill to help local jurisdictions improve the recording and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains found in South Texas.
“Our nation has a chance to put more resources into helping identify the remains of missing persons, and to bring closure to families who know not whether to grieve, or continue the search,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “This piece of legislation would provide much-needed resources directed at finding answers for families across the U.S. Southwest Border. Passing this bill will help our ranchers and farmers, our counties, and our local sheriffs. I thank Congressman Hurd and Senator Cornyn for coming together to craft this bipartisan and bicameral piece of legislation.”
“Our border communities have experienced the very real consequences of the treacherous journey travelled by many seeking to come to this country,” said Sen. Cornyn. “My hope is that this bill will help local communities identify those who have gone missing, process unidentified remains, and invest in forensic equipment to provide closure to families in the United States and abroad.”
“Until we address the root causes of mass migration flows from Central America, individuals will continue to make the perilous journey north,” said Hurd, who represents more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress. “This bipartisan bill helps prevent tragic deaths along the border by expanding CBP’s rescue and apprehension capabilities. In addition, it mitigates the burdens placed on state and local governments to identify perished individuals with the dignity they deserve. I am proud to join my fellow Texans Rep. Gonzalez and Sen. Cornyn in providing a solution for this very real challenge faced by law enforcement agencies across my district.”
The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2018:
- expands eligibility to apply for grants under Jennifer’s Law to state and local governments, accredited government-funded CODIS forensic laboratories, medical examiners, accredited publicly-funded toxicology, crime, and university forensic anthropology center laboratories, and non-profit organizations that work with state and county forensic offices for entry of data into CODIS of NamUS
- authorizes use of grant funds to cover costs
- incurred since FY17 for transportation, processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains
- of hiring additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odontologists and anthropologists needed to support identification efforts
- of purchasing state-of-the-art forensic and DNA-typing and analytical equipment
- adds privacy protections for biological family reference samples uploaded into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) by precluding disclosure of such information to Federal or state law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes
- expands CBP’s legal authority to purchase and deployment of up to 170 self-powering 9-1-1 cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate migrant deaths on the southern border
- requires reporting to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National and Missing Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) regarding missing persons and deceased individuals found in each applicant’s jurisdiction
- adds reporting requirements for the NamUS Program regarding the number of unidentified person cases, anthropology cases, suspected border crossing cases, and associations made
- adds reporting requirements for CBP and GAO on unidentified remains and use of rescue beacons
Endorsements: National Criminal Justice Association; South Texans’ Property Rights Association; Texas Border Coalition; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Church World Service; Colibri Center for Human Rights; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces; Franciscan Action Network; Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers); Hope Border Institute; Kino Border Initiative; La Frontera Ministries International, Inc.; Latin America Working Group (LAWG); Leadership Conference of Women Religious; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team; South Texas Human Rights Center; Southern Border Communities Coalition; Washington Office on Latin America.