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senate Bill S. 2174

Should the Federal Gov’t Provide More Funding to Help Report & Identify Remains of Missing Persons Along the U.S.-Mexico Border?

Argument in favor

Unauthorized border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border are risky and often lethal. Too often, remains are not identified and their loved ones are left without closure. By making federal resources and funding available to border communities to help identify remains, this bill would alleviate the financial strain on border communities that currently pay for identifying migrant remains and help ensure that more migrants’ remains are identified and returned to their loved ones.

Dorothy's Opinion
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12/16/2020
It’s going to take a hellva lot to clean up the border mess created by the cruel sadistic GOP, Sessions, Rosenstein, and Nazi monster Miller. They all have blood on their hands. This is a stain on our country that will not be washed away. We own it. The physical, sexual, psychological abuses will affect generations; not to mention the GoP sex trafficking. How many little kids disappeared we will never know. Toomey hope you sleep well at night knowing these terrors were inflicted on your watch as you supported your cult leader
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daSpoonerSF's Opinion
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12/16/2020
I’m actually on the fence with this one, however the humanity in me does acknowledge the fact that these people were trying enter the US illegally, they are still human souls above all else. No one should be left to die alone let alone in a desperate attempt to escape whatever horrors they are fleeing from.
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R.K.'s Opinion
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12/16/2020
Eventually but not until we take care of the living
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Argument opposed

While it is certainly tragic that unauthorized immigrants may perish while attempting to cross the southern border, the truth remains that these persons are aware of the risks they undertake in these journeys. Right now, when the U.S. is already straining to meet the needs of residents within its own borders, is not the time to make further expenditures that do not directly serve U.S. residents.

Joan's Opinion
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12/16/2020
The trumplicans in Congress are wasting time! Americans need financial assistance to help combat the death and destruction Covid has caused! Why don’t the trumplicans discuss the 14th Amendment they all violated recently? They all need to be removed from their Congressional seats immediately, Nancy!
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Steve's Opinion
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12/16/2020
What are our priorities as a country? Are they COVID, climate change, economic reform, education, infrastructure, racism or is it a host of others issues, that while important, are they the MOST important? We need to, as a people, do an honest self-review of what is critical and important, select a list of critical items and prioritize, and develop and proceed to fix. Presenting multitudes of non-critical proposals is time consuming, distracting and indicates poor leadership- when leadership is most required. Are you leaders or chaff?
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Kathy's Opinion
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12/16/2020
Another slush fund to line pockets of the federal government? At this point we are to believe that big government gives a crap about any of us?!
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What is Senate Bill S. 2174?

This bill, known as the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2018, would increase the availability of funds to help report and identify the remains of missing persons along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This legislation would expand eligibility to apply for certain grants to state and local governments, accredited government-funded CODIS forensic laboratories, and medical examiners for entry of data into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS). It would also authorize the use of these grants funds to cover the costs of:

  • Transporting, processing, identifying, and reporting missing persons and unidentified remains;
  • Establishing and expanding programs to improve the reporting of unidentified persons;
  • Hiring additional DNA case analysts and technicians, fingerprint examiners, and forensic odontologists and anthropologists needed tos support identification efforts; and
  • Purchasing state-of-the-art forensic and DNA-typing and analytical equipment.

This legislation would also add privacy protections for biological family reference samples uploaded into CODIS by precluding such information’s disclosure to federal or state law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes.

Additionally, this legislation would expand Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) legal authority to purchase and deploy up to 170 self-powering 911 cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate deaths on the southern border.

Finally, this bill would establish three reporting requirements:

  • Each grant applicant would be required to report missing persons and deceased individuals found in its jurisdiction to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and NamUS Program.
  • The NamUS Program would gain additional reporting requirements regarding the number of unidentified person cases, anthropology cases, suspected border crossing cases, and associations made.
  • The CBP and Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to report on unidentified remains and the use of rescue beacons.

Impact

Missing and unidentified migrants found along the U.S.-Mexico border; identification of missing and unidentified migrants; border communities; the FBI; Combined DNA Index System (CODIS); National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS); and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2174

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced this legislation to help border counties identify missing migrants:

“Our border communities have experienced the very real consequences of the treacherous journey travelled by many seeking to come to this country. My hope is that this bill will help local communities identify those who have gone missing, process unidentified remains, and invest in forensic equipment to provide closure to families in the United States and abroad.”

In comments before introducing this legislation in July 2019, Sen. Cornyn added:

“I’ve been to Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County, Texas, where I saw graves of these unknown [migrants]. This isn’t a rare occurrence – thousands have died while attempting to enter the United States. It’s one of the toughest parts of the job for Border Patrol agents, and takes a toll on communities, as well who are obligated to do what is right to ensure the dignity of the deceased. The process of identifying these remains is incredibly expensive, and often falls to state and local law enforcement, medical examiners, and crime and forensic labs in border states… Border communities have experienced the negative consequences of the migrant crisis, and they are often forced to do the job of the federal government without the federal assistance that should come with it. This bill would go a long way in defraying those costs, and providing additional resources to the local communities working to identify those who have gone missing, process unidentified remains, and invest in forensic equipment to provide closure to families in the United States and abroad.”

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), sponsor of this bill’s House companion, says:

“Our nation has a chance to put more resources into helping identify the remains of missing persons, and to bring closure to families who know not whether to grieve, or continue the search. This piece of legislation would provide much-needed resources directed at finding answers for families across the U.S. Southwest Border. Passing this bill will help our ranchers and farmers, our counties, and our local sheriffs." 

The National Immigration Forum expressed supported for this legislation in an October 5, 2020 bill analysis:

“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. This is a bipartisan, common-sense reform that would allow the country to treat those dying or crossing between ports of entry with dignity and humanity.”

This legislation unanimously passed the Senate with the support of three bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including two Democrats and one Republican. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), has five bipartisan House cosponsors (four Democrats and one Republican) and has not yet received a committee vote.

In the 115th Congress, Sen. Cornyn introduced this legislation with five bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including three Democrats and two Republicans. Rep. Gonzalez also introduced companion legislation in the House with the support of one Republican cosponsor, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). Neither bill received a committee vote.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Southern Border Communities Coalition, and Colibri Center for Human Rights endorse this bill. They are joined by two Texas-based organizations, the South Texas Property Rights Association and the Texas Border Coalition.


Of Note: Migrants attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry often face difficult terrain and extremely dangerous conditions. For example, the temperature in parts of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert can reach over 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and drop to below freezing in the winter.

From fiscal years 1998 through 2018, the U.S. Border Patrol reported 7,505 migrant deaths on the border. Most were caused by dehydration, drowning, and exposure to extreme heat or cold. These figures likely underreport deaths, as the statistics only report those who have been positively identified by border patrol agents. In many cases, the bodies of migrants who perish during attempted border crossing are difficult — if not impossible — to identify after exposure to the desert for prolonged periods. Since 1998, over 2,000 unidentified bodies — most of which were in pieces due to animal predation — have been retrieved north of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The costs of transporting, preserving, and autopsying a migrant’s remains ranges from $1,500 to $4,000. These costs can add up quickly for border counties. From 2009 to 2012, Brooks County, Texas spent $670,000 to transport, identify, and process unidentified migrants’ remains.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Phototreat)

AKA

Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill 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.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house Passed on a voice vote
  • The senate Passed on a voice vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJuly 18th, 2019
    It’s going to take a hellva lot to clean up the border mess created by the cruel sadistic GOP, Sessions, Rosenstein, and Nazi monster Miller. They all have blood on their hands. This is a stain on our country that will not be washed away. We own it. The physical, sexual, psychological abuses will affect generations; not to mention the GoP sex trafficking. How many little kids disappeared we will never know. Toomey hope you sleep well at night knowing these terrors were inflicted on your watch as you supported your cult leader
    Like (9)
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    The trumplicans in Congress are wasting time! Americans need financial assistance to help combat the death and destruction Covid has caused! Why don’t the trumplicans discuss the 14th Amendment they all violated recently? They all need to be removed from their Congressional seats immediately, Nancy!
    Like (5)
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    Where is Covid legislation? Where is the Budget (not some interim funding measure)? Stop with al this look busy work, obscure legislation til Covid & Budget are done!
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    Sadly, so true, Dorothy! 👍🏻👏🏻😊❤️. There’s is so much work we need to do to fix the destruction and division the Creature has showered upon us. Keep reminding us, lest some forget.
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    This is important! I cannot imagine wondering if one of my family members was missing and no one other than our family cared to learn what happened and where the body might be. We all deserve to be reunited with our lost family!
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    I’m actually on the fence with this one, however the humanity in me does acknowledge the fact that these people were trying enter the US illegally, they are still human souls above all else. No one should be left to die alone let alone in a desperate attempt to escape whatever horrors they are fleeing from.
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    Yes, I am sure that if it was anyone's child reading this you would want to know if your child was there if he was lost. It is the right thing to do.
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    What are our priorities as a country? Are they COVID, climate change, economic reform, education, infrastructure, racism or is it a host of others issues, that while important, are they the MOST important? We need to, as a people, do an honest self-review of what is critical and important, select a list of critical items and prioritize, and develop and proceed to fix. Presenting multitudes of non-critical proposals is time consuming, distracting and indicates poor leadership- when leadership is most required. Are you leaders or chaff?
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    I applaud the seemingly humane nature of Senator Cornyn’s proposal. The money required to try and identify and repatriate non-citizens of this country is for now better spent on our citizens in the form of COVID relief and keeping the country safe and running, in my opinion. Right now, thanks to the tax reform that wasn’t, the continuing wars started by another Republican president, ill-considered trade war with China that resulted in farmer bailouts, lack of regulation of the banking industry despite misconduct that directly caused the Great Recession, and the pandemic the American deficit is higher than it’s ever been. When we can dig ourselves out of the holes - government and citizens alike - and when we have helped the citizens of countries that have been decimated by natural disasters we can reconsider helping the dead and their families. And as for Cornyn, I find it puzzling that, if he does indeed have compassion for general humanity, he has supported Trump and McConnell in every lie, every effort to weaken health care for those who can’t afford or don’t have insurance, increasing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy while increasing the financial weight to everyone else, weakening consumer protections, undermining our democracy, just to name a few. But that’s beside the point.
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    Eventually but not until we take care of the living
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    This is a matter of human decency. Plus, who knows if missing US citizens could be among the dead? Regardless, their families deserve to know their fate.
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    The loved ones of the unidentified deceased deserve closure and answers.
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    I could easily be persuaded to support this legislation, but not without a CBO cost estimate and NOT UNTIL BUDGET AND COVID RELIEF are passed and implemented to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of Congress.
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    We should help find out who the missing unidentified people are and even they come from America or Mexico.
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    Their families have the right to know what happened to their loved one.
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    Small businesses are dying and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans are being destroyed while these idiots are arguing around this irrelevant garbage?!?! Help living Americans first, end unconstitutional lock downs, send stimulus to help this suffering under these lockdowns.
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    Another slush fund to line pockets of the federal government? At this point we are to believe that big government gives a crap about any of us?!
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    It’s the right thing to do, and we need to continue to do the right thing even when it is hard. Yes this country is going through a crisis and yes its citizens and residents are suffering, but we need to continue to uphold our responsibilities as decent human beings and still take care of things like this. Besides, if we’re really strapped for cash, we should be avoiding things like being global police and fighting unnecessary wars in several countries, not avoiding responsibilities like this one.
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    Any effort that deals with identifying deceased people's remains that have not yet been positively identified should be a priority of the federal government. Just because a body is found near the U.S./ Mexican border does not necessarily mean they were illegal immigrants. They may have been US citizens who got lost and died of starvation or dehydration, or they could have been abducted against their will, were killed, and the killer/s disposed of the body there, etc. Even if they were illegal or undocumented immigrants, what ever you wish to call them, they were once physically here and, unlike some of you here, I understand that individual still has value even after they've died; for the fact they existed gives them value all by itself, not just the life they once had. Also might I remind the people who oppose this bill that not positively identifying corpses just causes more bodies to be left at morgue and eventually buried in paupers graves which just takes more money away from the government to do other things. By positively identifying the body, the burden of deciding how to deal with remains shifts from the government to the individuals family, if they have any or may be foreign government, which in turn reduces the financial burden on the U.S. side considerably. This is also the ethical thing to do as it gives the individuals friends and or family answers about what happened to that individual, allowing to cope somewhat better, especially knowing that individual's remains will finally be sent home. In the end, this bill protects emotional well being of people everywhere; as well as reducing the financial strains caused by dealing with the remains of unidentified individuals.
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    The crimes against humanity created by the Trump regime will surely be investigated by the UN and those who were responsible imprisoned but, in the meantime, the Biden administration should immediately start the process of making sure such abuses never occur again and that we take full responsibility for the damage we have caused to citizens of other nations. This includes reparations to the families of the kidnapped children, finding and returning all the lost children, reparations for those who died while in custody, and identifying the dead and returning them to their loved ones. And I would suggest that the funds to do this come from the criminal fines levied against the high-ranking administration officials and Congressional members who were responsible for the crimes or who knew and refused to stand against the evil.
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