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Senate committee passes bill to bring Amber Alert system to reservations

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHOENIX — The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the Amber Alert system to extend to Native American reservations.

The bill is called the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017 and is sponsored by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It would make Native American reservations eligible for Department of Justice grants that go toward implementing the child abduction alert system.

The bill now heads to the entire Senate for a vote.

According to a statement from Sen. McCain’s office, the DOJ already offers a pilot program for Amber Alert training to Native America tribes, but this bill would make that permanent.

“Last year, Navajo Nation was devastated by the abduction and murder of 11-year old Ashlynne Mike,” McCain said in that statement. “In that high profile case, authorities did not issue an AMBER Alert for Ashlynne until the day after family members reported her abduction.

“According to data produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are 7,724 Native American children listed as missing in the United States.”

Arizona is currently home to 22 sovereign Native American communities, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.

The Amber Alert system began in 1996 in the wake of the murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas, according to the program’s website. The “Amber” in its name alludes to Hagerman, but also stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

The Amber Alert website also states that 868 children have been rescued through the alert system since its beginning.

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