Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Harris Bill to Help Border Regions Identify Missing Migrants Heads to President’s Desk

December 19, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after his bipartisan bill with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, which will help local jurisdictions improve the recording and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains found along the U.S.-Mexico border, passed the Senate:

“Our Texas border communities are stretched to the limit having to identify and process the remains of those who died trying to cross our southern border,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bipartisan legislation will restore some measure of dignity to those who died in search of a better life, deliver closure to their families, and provide resources for border communities working to identify these remains. I look forward to seeing it signed into law soon.”

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:

o   For transportation, processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains

o   Of hiring additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odontologists and anthropologists needed to support identification efforts

o   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 Fraternal Order of Police, 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 Anti-Defamation League, No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, the South Texas Human Rights Center, the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Church World Service, the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the National District Attorneys Association, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, and the Colibri Center for Human Rights.