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Navajo Nation throws support behind efforts to expand Amber Alert funding
Measure by Sen. John McCain headed for full Senate vote
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is expressing support for federal legislation that would expand the Amber Alert system to tribal lands.
The proposal, introduced in March by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would make tribes eligible for U.S. Department of Justice grants that help assemble the child abduction notification system.
It would also make permanent a pilot program under the Justice Department that offers training services to tribes for the Amber Alert and enhance the department's oversight of how grants are used.
The Navajo Nation was among 10 tribes selected in 2007 as part of the department's pilot program to expand the Amber Alert program into Indian Country.
As part of the initiative, the tribe received $330,000 to implement a system on the reservation. The tribe received a second grant in 2011 to help the process, but the notification system was never completed.
On Thursday, the Navajo Nation Council's Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee voted 11-0 in favor of supporting the federal proposal.
Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who sponsored the tribal bill, said today she is pleased that her colleagues supported the measure.
Crotty said after the bill has been finalized, copies will be submitted to members of Congress.
She added that those advocating for increased funding are continuing to educate senators and representatives about the need for the Amber Alert system in Indian Country.
The bill introduced by McCain has received bipartisan support from senators representing New Mexico, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota.
It was approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on June 13 and now moves to the full Senate for a vote on final passage, according to a press release from McCain's office.
McCain introduced the bill in response to the May 2016 abduction and murder of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike near the Shiprock pinnacle.
In the release from McCain's office, the senator said authorities did not issue an Amber Alert until a day after family members reported her abduction.
In a lawsuit filed this year in tribal court, Gary Mike, Ashlynne's father, stated he filed a missing person report at 6:53 p.m. May 2, the day the girl and her brother went missing, but a search was not started until after 2 a.m. May 3. Half an hour later, an Amber Alert was issued by the New Mexico State Police.
Ashlynne Mike was found dead at about 11:30 a.m. May 3, the lawsuit states.
Tom Begaye Jr., of Waterflow, has been charged with murdering the girl. He has pleaded not guilty to murder, sexual abuse and other charges in federal court last June.
A change of plea hearing for Begaye is scheduled Aug. 1 in Albuquerque, according to court records.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.