Legislation Introduced to Expand AMBER Alert
Legislation to expand the AMBER Alert system to include all U.S. territories was introduced on Sept. 21, 2018, by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
The national AMBER Alert network distributes alerts on highway billboards, TVs, radio and cellular phones to mobilize the public when a child is missing or abducted. It has helped rescue more than 900 children to date.
“AMBER Alerts have helped save hundreds of children,” Sen. Schatz said. “There’s no good reason for U.S. territories to be excluded from this system. With this bill, we can help children and their families quickly end the nightmare that is child abduction.”
“Established as a nationwide system, we are long overdue in providing all of our territories with access to this essential and effective service,” Sen. Murkowski said. “I thank Sen. Schatz for introducing this bipartisan legislation to ensure all U.S. territories can utilize this life-saving technology to better protect our communities.”
First established in 2003, the original legislation authorizing the program did not include grant funding to help all U.S. territories implement the system. In addition to all 50 states, only the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were eligible for grant funding.
The Schatz-Murkowski legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide federal grant funding to help all U.S. territories implement the AMBER Alert program on a voluntary basis.
Specifically, it would:
- Reauthorize DOJ’s AMBER Alert grant program and make all five U.S. territories – American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands—eligible for funding;
- Integrate territorial law enforcement agencies into the national AMBER Alert system, including state or regional AMBER Alert communication plans;
- Direct the DOJ’s AMBER Alert coordinator to work with the Department of Homeland Security; and
- Authorize DOT to provide grants for AMBER Alert signs along public roadways and other major transportation routes, including airports, maritime ports, border crossings/checkpoints and ports of exit from U.S. territories.
Companion legislation has been introduced by U.S. Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) in the House.