WASHINGTON (KVEO) — An act aiming to enhance recording and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains along the U.S.-Mexico border passed a vote in the House of Representatives and now awaits approval from the president to be signed into law.

The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act was introduced by Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Will Hurd (TX-23) in 2018 and is now soon to be enacted into law.

“Border communities are currently shouldering the costs of identifying and recovering the remains of migrants who tragically perish while migrating to the United States,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “This legislation will provide much-needed aid for South Texas municipalities, sheriffs, farmers, and ranchers to address this critical issue.

Below is what the act hopes to accomplish:

  • Expand eligibility for grants to allow applications from State and local governments; accredited government-funded Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) forensic laboratories; medical examiners; accredited publicly-funded toxicology, crime, and university forensic anthropology center laboratories; and nonprofit organizations who have collaborative agreements with State and county forensic offices for entry of data into CODIS or National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems (NamUS).
  • Require reporting to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and NamUS regarding missing persons and deceased individuals found in each applicant’s jurisdiction.
  • Add privacy protections for biological family reference samples that will be uploaded into CODIS by precluding disclosure of such information to Federal or state law enforcement agency’s for criminal law enforcement purposes. 
  • Authorize the use of grant funds to cover costs for the:
    • transportation, processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains; 
    • hiring of additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odonatologists and anthropologists needed to support identification; and
    • purchase of state-of-the-art forensic and DNA-typing and analytical equipment.
  • Expand U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) legal authorities to allow for the purchase of additional self-powering 9-1-1- cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate deaths in places where CBP determines are appropriate.
  • Add reporting requirements for the NamUS Program regarding the number of unidentified person cases, anthropology cases, suspected border crossing cases and associations made.
  • Add reporting requirements for CBP and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on unidentified remains and use of rescue beacons.