Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (15th District of Texas)
WASHINGTON – Today, S. 2174, the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote. This bill was introduced in the House by Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Will Hurd (TX-23) as a companion bill to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Vice President-Elect Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)’s legislation that passed the U.S. Senate. The measure will now go to the President to be signed into law.
This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will enhance local jurisdictions’ ability to record and report missing persons and unidentified remains found in South Texas and elsewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Border communities are currently shouldering the costs of identifying and recovering the remains of migrants who tragically perish while migrating to the United States,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “This legislation will provide much needed aid for South Texas municipalities, sheriffs, farmers and ranchers to address this critical issue. The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act is a necessary step forward, but a band aid on a much larger Central American migration problem that we must tackle. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to pass this bill and a special thanks to all of the county judges, sheriffs, mayors, and advocates who pushed for this legislation. I will continue to work in a bipartisan way to see this bill signed by the President.”
“Our communities along the border experience unfortunate consequences that reflect the perilous journey north from Central American countries,” said Hurd, who represents more of the U.S.-Mexico border than any other Member of Congress. “The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act will not only provide additional resources to Customs and Border Protection for rescue efforts, but also reduce the burdens placed on state and local governments to identify perished individuals. Rep. Gonzalez and Sen. Cornyn have been great partners in providing a solution for this very real challenge faced by many communities across my district, and I am proud of our bipartisan work that will give families the peace of mind they deserve. I urge the president to sign this bill into law swiftly.”
S. 2174 is endorsed by the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, the Texas Border Coalition, the National Criminal Justice Association, the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (including the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, the International Association for Identification, the National Association of Medical Examiners, the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and American Board of Forensic Toxicology), the National Immigration Forum, the Colibri Center for Human Rights and the California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act will:
- Expand eligibility for grants to allow applications from State and local governments; accredited government-funded Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) forensic laboratories; medical examiners; accredited publicly-funded toxicology, crime, and university forensic anthropology center laboratories; and nonprofit organizations who have collaborative agreements with State and county forensic offices for entry of data into CODIS or National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems (NamUS).
- Require reporting to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and NamUS regarding missing persons and deceased individuals found in each applicant’s jurisdiction.
- Add privacy protections for biological family reference samples that will be uploaded into CODIS by precluding disclosure of such information to Federal or state law enforcement agency’s for criminal law enforcement purposes.
- Authorize the use of grant funds to cover costs for the:
- transportation, processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains;
- hiring of additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odonatologists and anthropologists needed to support identification; and
- purchase of state-of-the-art forensic and DNA-typing and analytical equipment.
- Expand U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) legal authorities to allow for the purchase of additional self-powering 9-1-1- cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate deaths in places where CBP determines are appropriate.
- Add reporting requirements for the NamUS Program regarding the number of unidentified person cases, anthropology cases, suspected border crossing cases and associations made.
- Add reporting requirements for CBP and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on unidentified remains and use of rescue beacons.
Congressmen Gonzalez and Hurd originally introduced this bill in the 115th Congress.