New Amber Alert law for tribal lands honors slain Navajo girl

April 17, 2018 | The Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert for Indian Country Act, Public Law No. 115-166, was signed into law on April 13, 2018.  The legislation was introduced by Senator McCain (R-AZ) in 2017. The new law allows tribes to develop and integrate tribal Amber Alerts systems into state AMBER Alert systems and makes tribes, not just states, possible awardees for federal AMBER Alert grants.

The Act also reauthorizes the Protect Act, enacted in 2003, to assemble Amber Alert systems to address crimes of violence against children and overcome georgraphic gaps in AMBER networks. The intent of the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert for Indian Country Act is to broaden the scope of the Amber Alert and increase the liklihood that a child in danger will be recovered. Specifically, if tribal communication systems fall short, local, state, and regional broadcasters may be able to help fill that gap.  See Senate Report 115-147.

In 2007, the Office of Justice Programs announed an "Amber Alert in Indian Country Initiative" to form and expand child recovery resources and practices in tribal communities. Thirteen selected tribal communities developed Amber Alert plans. However, the high-profile child abduction and murder case of Ashlynne Mike on the Navajo Nation in 2016 sadly highlights the unacceptable deficiencies in the Amber Alert Program in Indian Country.  Family members and other community members contend that Ashlynne Mike would still be alive "but for a delay in commincations with off-reservation authorities who eventually issued the the AMBER Alert."Senate Report 115-147.Within one year of enactment, the new law requires the Attorney General to report to Congress with an assessment of the readiness, education, and training needs, and challenges and obstacles tribes are facing in AMBER Alert integration at the state and local levels.