Cornyn Introduces Bill to Help Border Counties Identify Missing Migrants

In: All News   Posted 07/18/2019

WASHINGTON -- Today U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, a bill to help local jurisdictions improve the recording and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains found along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“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.”

The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act:

  • Expands eligibility to apply for certain grants to state and local governments, accredited government-funded CODIS forensic laboratories, and medical examiners for entry of data into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS)
  • Authorizes use of grant funds to cover costs:
    • 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 the use of rescue beacons

This bill is endorsed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the South Texas Property Rights Association, the Texas Border Coalition, and the Colibri Center for Human Rights.