MISSING PERSONS AND UNIDENTIFIED REMAINS ACT OF 2019; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 213
(House of Representatives - December 16, 2020)

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[Pages H7217-H7219]
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          MISSING PERSONS AND UNIDENTIFIED REMAINS ACT OF 2019

  Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (S. 2174) to expand the grants authorized under Jennifer's Law and 
Kristen's Act to include processing of unidentified remains, resolving 
missing persons cases, and for other purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                S. 2174

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Missing Persons and 
     Unidentified Remains Act of 2019''.

     SEC. 2. USE OF GRANT FUNDS.

       (a) Jennifer's Law.--Jennifer's Law (34 U.S.C. 40501 et 
     seq.) is amended--
       (1) by striking section 202 (34 U.S.C. 40501) and inserting 
     the following:

     ``SEC. 202. PROGRAM AUTHORIZED.

       ``(a) In General.--
       ``(1) Grants authorized.--The Attorney General may award 
     grants to eligible entities described in paragraph (2) to 
     enable the eligible entities to improve the transportation, 
     processing, identification, and reporting of missing persons 
     and unidentified remains, including migrants.
       ``(2) Eligible entities.--Eligible entities described in 
     this paragraph are the following:
       ``(A) States and units of local government.
       ``(B) Accredited, publicly funded, Combined DNA Index 
     System (commonly known as `CODIS') forensic laboratories, 
     which demonstrate the grant funds will be used for DNA typing 
     and uploading biological family DNA reference samples, 
     including samples from foreign nationals, into CODIS, subject 
     to the protocols for inclusion of such forensic DNA profiles 
     into CODIS, and the privacy protections required under 
     section 203(c).
       ``(C) Medical examiners offices.
       ``(D) Accredited, publicly funded toxicology laboratories.
       ``(E) Accredited, publicly funded crime laboratories.
       ``(F) Publicly funded university forensic anthropology 
     laboratories.
       ``(G) Nonprofit organizations that have working 
     collaborative agreements with State and county forensic 
     offices, including medical examiners, coroners, and justices 
     of the peace, for entry of data into CODIS or the National 
     Missing and Unidentified Persons System (commonly known as 
     `NamUs'), or both.'';
       (2) in section 203 (34 U.S.C. 40502)--
       (A) in subsection (a), by striking ``a State'' and 
     inserting ``an entity described in section 202'';
       (B) in subsection (b)--
       (i) in the matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking 
     ``State'' and inserting ``applicant'';
       (ii) by striking paragraph (1) and inserting the following:
       ``(1) report to the National Crime Information Center and, 
     when possible, to law enforcement authorities throughout the 
     applicant's jurisdiction regarding every deceased 
     unidentified person, regardless of age, found in the 
     applicant's jurisdiction;'';
       (iii) in paragraph (3), by striking ``and'' at the end;
       (iv) in paragraph (4), by striking the period at the end 
     and inserting ``; and''; and
       (v) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(5) collect and report information to the National 
     Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) regarding 
     missing persons and unidentified remains.''; and
       (C) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(c) Privacy Protections for Biological Family Reference 
     Samples.--
       ``(1) In general.--Any suspected biological family DNA 
     reference samples received from citizens of the United States 
     or foreign nationals and uploaded into the Combined DNA Index 
     System (commonly referred to as `CODIS') by an accredited, 
     publicly funded CODIS forensic laboratory awarded a grant 
     under this section may be used only for identifying missing 
     persons and unidentified remains.
       ``(2) Limitation on use.--Any biological family DNA 
     reference samples from citizens of the United States or 
     foreign nationals entered into CODIS for purposes of 
     identifying missing persons and unidentified remains may not 
     be disclosed to a Federal or State law enforcement agency for 
     law enforcement purposes.''; and
       (3) by striking section 204 (34 U.S.C. 40503) and inserting 
     the following:

     ``SEC. 205. USE OF FUNDS.

       ``An applicant receiving a grant award under this title may 
     use such funds to--
       ``(1) pay for the costs incurred during or after fiscal 
     year 2017 for the transportation, processing, identification, 
     and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains, 
     including migrants;
       ``(2) establish and expand programs developed to improve 
     the reporting of unidentified persons in accordance with the 
     assurances provided in the application submitted pursuant to 
     section 203(b);
       ``(3) hire and maintain additional DNA case analysts and 
     technicians, fingerprint examiners, forensic odontologists, 
     and forensic anthropologists, needed to support such 
     identification programs; and
       ``(4) procure and maintain state of the art multi-modal, 
     multi-purpose forensic and DNA-typing and analytical 
     equipment.''.
       (b) Kristen's Act.--Section 102 of Kristen's Act (34 U.S.C. 
     40504 note) is amended to read as follows:

     ``SEC. 102. AUTHORIZATION OF FUNDING.

       ``To the extent provided in advance in appropriations Acts, 
     the Attorney General is authorized to use funds appropriated 
     for the operationalization, maintenance, and expansion of the 
     National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) for 
     the purpose of carrying out this Act''.

     SEC. 3. RESCUE BEACONS.

       Section 411(o) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 
     U.S.C. 211(o)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
       ``(3) Rescue beacons.--Beginning in fiscal year 2019, in 
     carrying out subsection (c)(8), the Commissioner shall 
     purchase, deploy, and maintain not more than 170 self-
     powering, 9-1-1 cellular relay rescue beacons along the 
     southern border of the United States at locations determined 
     appropriate by the Commissioner to mitigate migrant 
     deaths.''.

     SEC. 4. REPORTING ON NATIONAL MISSING AND UNIDENTIFIED 
                   PERSONS SYSTEM (NAMUS) PROGRAM.

       Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of 
     this act, and every year thereafter, the Attorney General 
     shall submit a report to the appropriate committees of 
     Congress regarding--
       (1) the number of unidentified person cases processed;
       (2) CODIS associations and identifications;
       (3) the number of anthropology cases processed;
       (4) the number of suspected border crossing cases and 
     associations made;
       (5) the number of trials supported with expert testimony;
       (6) the number of students trained and professions of those 
     students; and
       (7) the turnaround time and backlog.

     SEC. 5. OTHER REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.

       (a) Unidentified Remains.--
       (1) Reporting requirement.--Not later than 1 year after the 
     date of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the 
     Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall 
     submit a report to the appropriate committees of Congress 
     regarding all unidentified remains discovered, during the 
     reporting period, on or near the border between the United 
     States and Mexico, including--
       (A) for each deceased person--
       (i) the cause and manner of death, if known;
       (ii) the sex, age (at time of death), and country of origin 
     (if such information is determinable); and
       (iii) the location of each unidentified remain;
       (B) the total number of deceased people whose unidentified 
     remains were discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection 
     during the reporting period;
       (C) to the extent such information is available to U.S. 
     Customs and Border Protection, the total number of deceased 
     people whose unidentified remains were discovered by Federal, 
     State, local or Tribal law enforcement officers, military 
     personnel, or medical examiners offices;
       (D) the efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to 
     engage with nongovernmental organizations, institutions of 
     higher education, medical examiners and coroners, and law 
     enforcement agencies--
       (i) to identify and map the locations at which migrant 
     deaths occur; and
       (ii) to count the number of deaths that occur at such 
     locations; and
       (E) a detailed description of U.S. Customs and Border 
     Protection's Missing Migrant Program, including how the 
     program helps mitigate migrant deaths while maintaining 
     border security.

[[Page H7218]]

       (2) Public disclosure.--Not later than 30 days after each 
     report required under paragraph (1) is submitted, the 
     Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall 
     publish on the website of the agency the information 
     described in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (1) 
     during each reporting period.
       (b) Rescue Beacons.--Not later than 1 year after the date 
     of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the 
     Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall 
     submit a report to the appropriate committees of Congress 
     regarding the use of rescue beacons along the border between 
     the United States and Mexico, including, for the reporting 
     period--
       (1) the number of rescue beacons in each border patrol 
     sector;
       (2) the specific location of each rescue beacon;
       (3) the frequency with which each rescue beacon was 
     activated by a person in distress;
       (4) a description of the nature of the distress that 
     resulted in each rescue beacon activation (if such 
     information is determinable); and
       (5) an assessment, in consultation with local stakeholders, 
     including elected officials, nongovernmental organizations, 
     and landowners, of necessary additional rescue beacons and 
     recommendations for locations for deployment to reduce 
     migrant deaths.
       (c) GAO Report.--Not later than 6 months after the report 
     required under subsection (a) is submitted to the appropriate 
     committees of Congress, the Comptroller General of the United 
     States shall submit a report to the same committees that 
     describes--
       (1) how U.S. Customs and Border Protection collects and 
     records border-crossing death data;
       (2) the differences (if any) in U.S. Customs and Border 
     Protection border-crossing death data collection methodology 
     across its sectors;
       (3) how U.S. Customs and Border Protection's data and 
     statistical analysis on trends in the numbers, locations, 
     causes, and characteristics of border-crossing deaths compare 
     to other sources of data on these deaths, including border 
     county medical examiners and coroners and the Centers for 
     Disease Control and Prevention;
       (4) how U.S. Customs and Border Protection measures the 
     effectiveness of its programs to mitigate migrant deaths; and
       (5) the extent to which U.S. Customs and Border Protection 
     engages Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments, 
     foreign diplomatic and consular posts, and nongovernmental 
     organizations--
       (A) to accurately identify deceased individuals;
       (B) to resolve cases involving unidentified remains;
       (C) to resolve cases involving unidentified persons; and
       (D) to share information on missing persons and 
     unidentified remains, specifically with the National Missing 
     and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from 
Pennsylvania (Ms. Scanlon) and the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. 
Reschenthaler) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania (Ms. Scanlon).


                             General Leave

  Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous material on the bill under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 2174, the Missing Persons 
and Unidentified Remains Act, a bipartisan measure aimed at assisting 
State and local governments to locate missing people and identify human 
remains.
  This bill not only authorizes grant funding to States and localities 
for such purposes, but it also improves the Federal Government's data 
collection procedures and expands Customs and Border Protection's 
response to the tragic rise in migrant deaths along our southern 
border.
  These changes bring much-needed financial relief to local 
jurisdictions nationwide and provide a modicum of dignity and 
consolation to the families of those who have perished.
  Sadly, there is a pressing need for this legislation. The process by 
which States and localities and law enforcement agencies must tackle 
these issues exacts a financial and emotional toll. When remains are 
found, their identification by State and local law enforcement and 
medical examiners, often supported by crime and forensic laboratories, 
provides decedents and their survivors with dignity and respect.
  But bringing closure to these families is costly. State and local 
entities must transport, preserve the remains, perform autopsies, 
attempt DNA testing, and conduct forensic examinations. These tasks can 
be particularly burdensome on small jurisdictions that often have to 
rely on State support to carry out these complex tasks.
  That is why the grant program that this bill authorizes is so 
important. While the need for this support is greatest along our 
southern border, the grant funds authorized by S. 2174 will support 
jurisdictions nationwide to carry on this critical work.
  S. 2174 also contains a number of provisions that will strengthen the 
Federal Government's efforts to identify missing and unidentified 
people. Notably, the bill would create a bridge between States and 
localities and a Federal database to help match reports of missing 
people with unidentified remains.
  Importantly, the bill authorizes Customs and Border Protection to 
install up to 170 self-powering cellular relay rescue beacons along the 
southern border that will help stranded migrants call for help should 
they find themselves injured or in need of emergency services.
  A broad coalition of stakeholders have endorsed S. 2174, including 
the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies; the League of 
United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC; and the Christian Life 
Commission. This broad swath of support speaks to the need for the 
legislation and bolsters the bipartisan nature of the bill.
  I want to thank Representative Vicente Gonzalez for his leadership on 
this issue and his tireless work on behalf of his House companion to 
this bill.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve 
the balance of my time.
  Mr. RESCHENTHALER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, while I support this legislation, I strongly believe in 
ensuring justice for all victims and their families. I want to be 
absolutely clear that the continued crisis at our border requires more 
from Congress.
  S. 2174 provides resources to law enforcement and related entities 
tasked with processing the remains of those who tragically died while 
making the dangerous journey to enter this country illegally.
  But Congress should be doing more to secure our borders and to 
prevent these tragic deaths in the first place. I am concerned about 
the burdens this bill places on our already strained U.S. Customs and 
Border Protection.
  Under this bill, CBP is charged with documenting information about 
individuals who died at the border, reporting on the causes of their 
deaths, and mapping their final locations. I truly fear that these 
reports may be used by open-border advocates to malign the men and 
women of the U.S. Border Patrol when those advocates inevitably decide 
to play politics and start to argue that CBP is not doing enough to 
mitigate migrant deaths.
  In reality, to prevent future deaths at the border, we need to make 
it absolutely clear that no one should embark on this dangerous journey 
because illegal entry is simply not an option. We must fix our broken 
immigration system, which incentivizes people to cross our border 
illegally. Strong border security and interior enforcement is the best 
way to stop loss of life.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1600

  Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. Gonzalez).
  Mr. GONZALEZ of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 
2174, the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, which gives 
local law enforcement the tools they need to address a devastating 
issue that is draining resources in rural communities in south Texas 
and across the southwest border.
  Border communities are currently shouldering the cost of identifying 
and recovering the remains of migrants who tragically perished while 
migrating to the United States. This affects our citizens, ranchers, 
and farmers.
  The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act is a bipartisan, 
bicameral effort that will give local law

[[Page H7219]]

enforcement access to Federal dollars and will help free up local 
resources for rural healthcare, education, broadband, and other key 
services that are, tragically, needed in these areas.
  This is a critical bill to help address issues that are symptomatic 
of a larger problem. Unless we invest time and resources to address the 
root cause of migration from Central America, we will continue to 
witness these tragic deaths in our border region.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez, Jim Hogg 
County Sheriff Erasmo Alarcon, Jr., and Duval County Sheriff Romeo 
Ramirez, to name a few. These men have been on the front lines of this 
issue and continue their work to identify who has died.
  I also acknowledge the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the 
Church World Services, and the Texas Civil Rights Project for their 
work to raise awareness about this issue and help build support for 
this bill. Without the support of this large cross section of 
stakeholders, we would not be here passing this legislation today.
  For the families that have lost their loved ones, this bill is an 
opportunity to bring closure. I know many of you may not find the 
answers you seek, but there is a much better chance because of this 
legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, in recognition of the bipartisan support for this bill, 
I request that all my colleagues vote in support of this important 
effort.
  Mr. RESCHENTHALER. Mr. Speaker, in closing, while I support this 
bill, I think Congress must do more to secure our borders.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
  Mr. Speaker, the assistance provided by this bill will help bring 
peace of mind to the families of missing persons by taking meaningful 
steps to improve the identification of remains.
  I applaud the bipartisan and bicameral support for this bill. I thank 
Representatives Gonzalez and Hurd for their efforts in the House, as 
well as Senators Cornyn and Harris for championing the bill in the 
Senate.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this bill 
today, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, as a senior member of the Judiciary, 
Committee and a member representing a state on the nation's southern 
border, I rise in strong support of S. 2174, the ``Missing Persons and 
Unidentified Remains Act of 2019,'' sponsored by the senior senator 
from Texas, Sen. Cornyn, and Sen. Kamala Harris, the next Vice-
President of the United States and the first woman and person of color 
to win election to that high office.
  I support the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act because it 
is bipartisan legislation that will help prevent migrant deaths on the 
Southwest border and will help border counties and nonprofit 
organizations locate and identify missing migrants.
  Mr. Speaker, migrants seeking a better and safer life in the United 
States who attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of 
entry are often faced with difficult terrain and extremely dangerous 
conditions.
  The temperature in barren border sections of Arizona's Sonoran 
Desert, for example, can reach over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the 
summer and drop to below freezing in the winter.
  Since 1998, the U.S. Border Patrol has reported 7,505 migrant deaths 
on the border, most due to dehydration, drowning, and exposure to 
extreme heat or cold.
  For more than two decades, over one migrant a day has died while 
attempting to enter without authorization, a misdemeanor offense under 
Federal law.
  The actual number dead is likely much higher than that, as the 
statistics only report those who have been positively identified by 
border patrol agents.
  The bodies of migrants tragically lost during attempted border 
crossings become increasingly difficult to identify after exposure to 
the desert for prolonged periods.
  The continuing loss of life on the border is unacceptable and 
allowing many of the dead to remain unidentified is inhumane, families 
of border crossers unsure of their loved ones' fate and depriving them 
of the opportunity unable to say goodbye.
  The legislation before us would create grants for humanitarian and 
state actors to report and identify missing persons and unidentified 
remains, including migrant border crossers.
  The bill also provides resources for rescue beacons, which have been 
used effectively to rescue migrants who are in danger.
  Mr. Speaker, the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act would 
authorize the Attorney General to provide grants to various entities to 
report, process, and identify missing persons and unidentified remains.
  Entities eligible for the grants would include state and local 
governments, humanitarian aid groups, nonprofit organizations, 
forensics and toxicology laboratories, and medical examiners' offices.
  This funding will improve reporting of missing persons to the 
Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and 
Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), databases used to identify border 
crossers who have lost their lives.
  Additionally, the legislation authorizes the purchase and 
implementation of up to 170 self-powered ``rescue beacons'' in isolated 
border regions to prevent further migrant deaths.
  Rescue beacons are tools used by U.S. Border Patrol in desolate 
border areas to rescue migrants in distress.
  They are 30 to 40 feet tall, solar-powered, and satellite-connected.
  They are equipped with a 9-1-1 cellular relay, a strobe light, and a 
multilingual instructional placard to help migrants alert border patrol 
personnel to a distress call.
  Not long ago, on Christmas Eve, 2017, a distress call from a rescue 
beacon allowed border patrol agents to rescue a migrant family near 
Lukeville, Arizona, representing three of hundreds of lives that have 
been saved by the beacons since they were first implemented in the late 
1990s.
  As of November 12, 2019, there were 34 rescue beacons situated in 
desolate border areas; this bill would increase the total number of 
beacons by 600 percent.
  The bill clarifies privacy protections concerning the use of 
biometric data in the reporting and identification of missing persons 
and unidentified remains and provides that any piece of biometric 
evidence handled by an entity receiving grant funding be used for the 
sole purpose of identifying missing persons and unidentified remains.
  Finally, S. 2174 requires the Attorney General, Customs and Border 
Protection (CBP), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) each 
to submit annual reports on use of grant funding and on programs 
implemented to save migrant lives and identify the dead.
  Mr. Speaker, the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act would 
make an immediate impact, both by saving lives on the border and by 
allowing the families of those who have lost loved ones to gain 
closure.
  I strongly support this bipartisan, common-sense reform that would 
enable the United States to lessen the loss of life on our southern 
border and treat those dying or crossing between ports of entry with 
dignity and humanity.
  I urge all Members to join me in voting to pass S. 2174, the Missing 
Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentlewoman from Pennsylvania (Ms. Scanlon) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, S. 2174, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  The title of the bill was amended so as to read: ``A bill to the 
extent provided in advance in appropriations Act, the Attorney General 
is authorized to use funds appropriated for the operationalization, 
maintenance, and expansion of the National Missing and Unidentified 
Persons System (NamUs) for the purpose of carrying out this Act''.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________