Trump signs bill to expand Amber Alert to tribes
FARMINGTON — President Trump signed a measure into law that opens the door for 573 federally recognized tribes to apply and receive federal funding to develop and operate child abduction notification systems.
Trump signed the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act on April 13, according to the White House.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the bill last March. It was named after Ashlynne Mike, an 11-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in May 2016 on the Navajo Nation.
Senate supports bill to expand Amber Alert system to tribes
McCain said in a press release that he was gratified Trump signed the bipartisan bill.
"This legislation addresses serious gaps in current law that have prevented tribes from quickly issuing Amber Alerts and helping children like Ashlynne escape tragedy. We must ensure tribes have the resources they need to improve public safety, and this bill will expand and expedite child abduction alerts so we can help victims and save lives," McCain said.
The Navajo Nation was among 10 tribes selected in September 2007 by the U.S. Department of Justice to serve as pilot communities under an initiative to bring the Amber Alert to tribal lands.
Although the Justice Department awarded $330,000 in 2007 and $357,000 in 2011 to the tribe's Division of Public Safety, a notification system was not implemented.
Since Ashlynne Mike's death, the tribe has made progress in operating an emergency notification system.
McCain's bill makes the Justice Department's pilot program permanent and enhances the department's oversight for how funding is used.
Another provision under the bill requires the Justice Department to conduct a needs assessment for child abduction notification capabilities on tribal lands.
One Navajo Nation lawmaker commended the federal action during the tribal council's spring session on Monday in Window Rock, Arizona in video posted online by the Office of the Speaker.
Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty applauded Ashlynne Mike's parents, Gary Mike and Pamela Foster, for advocating for the bill in Congress.
The U.S. House of Representatives supported the measure on Feb. 26, followed by the Senate on March 22.
"That gives Navajo Nation – finally – the opportunity where we're able to protect our own children. When a child becomes missing or is abducted, it's then the Navajo Nation to have control and make sure that child is properly found. Every minute counts, so with our authority now to issue those alerts, that's monumental," she said.
Trump's approval happened a day before Ashlynne Mike's family held an event to honor her life and to promote child safety in San Juan Chapter.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.