Congressman Biggs' Statement at Markup of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Andy Biggs delivered the following remarks during today's House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act (H.R. 2666).
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am honored to be the sponsor of the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act in memory of the life of Ashlynne Mike. I want to thank the Chairman for hearing this bill today.
11 year-old Ashlynne lived in the Navajo Nation – the largest Indian Reservation in the United States – located in 4 states: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Her favorite color was yellow, and she enjoyed playing music for her friends and family. She was a kindhearted young girl who had enormous potential.
After school on Monday, May 2, 2016, while Ashlynne and her 9 year-old brother Ian played near the local bus stop, a stranger approached them and lured them into his vehicle by offering them a ride home. He abducted the children and took them to a remote part of the reservation, where he abused Ashlynne, slaughtered her, and left her brother to fend for himself in the desert. Ashlynne died alone.
Ashlynne was abducted around 4:00 P.M. Her father filed a missing person report at 6:53 P.M., within 3 hours. Unfortunately, authorities did not send an AMBER Alert until 2:30 A.M. on Tuesday – almost 10 hours after Ashlynne went missing.
According to law enforcement records, Tom Begay, Jr., Ashlynne’s perpetrator, admitted that Ashlynne was alive when he left her stranded.
Mr. Chairman, had Indian Country been included as partners in the AMBER Alert Plans, law enforcement could have rescued Ashlynne in time, and she might still be alive today.
When a child is abducted, action in those first hours is crucial in their safe return. The AMBER Alert program has proven effective at instantly providing information to the public to assist in the effort. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of the AMBER Alerts issued in 2016, 94 percent of the recovered children were found within the first 72 hours, including 47 percent who were found within the first three hours. Between 1997 and February 2017, the AMBER Alert program was credited with the safe recovery of 868 children. It is obvious that AMBER alerts save lives. Today we have the opportunity to ensure all children can benefit from the AMBER Alert program if necessary, no matter where they reside.
My bill – the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017 – amends the PROTECT Act of 2003, which initially established the federal AMBER Alert program, by:
- Including our 567 federally recognized tribes as partners in the AMBER Alert program;
- Allowing the U.S. Attorney General to waive the 50/50 federal share cost for Indian tribes on a case-by-case basis;
- Requiring the U.S. Attorney General to examine and report back to Congress on specific readiness, education, training needs, technological challenges, or other obstacles specific to Indian tribes.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for bringing this bill forward and acknowledging the importance of filling a gap in our AMBER alert system that could have prevented the death of Ashlynne. I urge all the members of the committee to support this legislation.