Tester Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Protect Native American Children

Senator’s Legislation Will Develop and Implement AMBER Alert Systems in Indian Country

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is sponsoring legislation to protect Native American families and increase resources for tribal law enforcement officers during the search for missing children.

Tester’s bill, The AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, will require the U.S. Justice Department to work with tribal law enforcement to develop and implement AMBER Alert communication systems in Native American communities. Many tribal law enforcement agencies currently do not have the communication infrastructure to send or receive AMBER Alert messages with other local law enforcement agencies or the FBI.

“Every second is precious during the search for a missing child,” Tester said. “Ensuring that tribes have the resources needed to establish and enhance AMBER Alert services will save lives and strengthen Indian communities.”

Derek VanLuchene the Founder of Ryan United and an Associate at the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program praised Tester’s bill.

This vital legislation will assist tribal communities in Montana and across the country with developing a quick seamless response when it comes to abducted native children,” said VanLuchene of Helena. “In an abduction situation, time is your enemy. Trying to find resources during an abduction can cost valuable time that should be spent looking for that child. Knowing what your resources are and how you deploy them is crucial. This legislation will help tribal communities recognize and have those resources at the ready before they ever receive a call of this nature.”

Tester’s bill will make permanent a Justice Department pilot program that offers AMBER Alert training to tribes, while authorizing a grant initiative that helps local law enforcement agencies develop and implement additional AMBER Alert communication plans. Tester’s bill also eliminates the 50 percent cost requirement for tribes to receive AMBER Alert assistance from the Justice Department, which will allow more tribes to update their communication technology.

The AMBER Alert is a broadcast emergency response system that is issued after a child has been reported missing. As of December of 2015, there have been 800 children nationwide who have been rescued and returned to their families as a result of an AMBER Alert.

Tester’s bill is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and is cosponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).