Published February 27, 2018
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed its version of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018 with an amendment that requires grant funds to be used to integrate tribal AMBER Alert systems with state systems for better communication.
Lawmakers late Friday changed the title of H.R. 2666 to include the name of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike, who was kidnapped and murdered near Shiprock, N.M., in May 2016. The Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018 now goes back to the Senate, which passed its version of the bill, S. 722, in November.
Navajo President Russell Begaye applauded the House for passing the bill and urged the Senate to do the same.
“We thank the House for including the name of our beloved child, Ashlynne Mike, who was taken from us,” President Begaye said. “We appreciate her name being added to the bill itself and we urge members of Congress to pass it as soon as possible.”
Sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), S. 772 amends the PROTECT Act, reauthorizing the AMBER Alert program for fiscal year 2018. The bill modifies the program to make tribes eligible for AMBER Alert grants, permits the use of grant funding to integrate state or regional AMBER Alert communication plans with tribes and allows waiver of the matching funds requirement for grants awarded to tribes.
“This is a much-needed bill in Indian Country,” Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “This will provide opportunities for the Navajo Nation to apply for the same federal grants that many states get. We need a fully implemented Navajo AMBER Alert system.”
Shortly after Ashlynne’s death, President Begaye issued a directive for the Navajo Nation to purchase an AMBER Alert system. By the end of the year, the Nation had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to allow Navajo public safety officials access to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
In December 2017, President Begaye signed a contract to purchase mass notification software to allow the Nation to issue its own emergency alerts. The Nation’s system, installed in January, is managed by the Navajo Department of Emergency Management, with oversight from the Navajo Division of Public Safety.