Texas lawmakers introduce legislation aimed at helping border counties identify missing migrants

Texas Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCongressional scorecard finds federal agencies improving on IT Juan Williams: Nowhere to go for black Republicans Texas lawmakers introduce legislation aimed at helping border counties identify missing migrants MORE (R) and Vicente Gonzalez (D) have teamed with Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid Look out ‘losers’ — Trump focused on ‘winning’ The Memo: GOP frets as Trump shutdown looms MORE and John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Trump, Dems dig in over shutdown GOP lawmakers distance themselves from ObamaCare ruling MORE to introduce legislation in their respective chambers Thursday aimed at helping localities record and report missing persons and unidentified remains found along the southern border.

The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act would broaden eligibility requirements to apply for grants under Jennifer's Law — which allows attorneys general to award money to states to improve reporting unidentified and missing individuals — to "state and local governments, accredited government-funded CODIS forensic laboratories, medical examiners, accredited publicly-funded toxicology, crime, and university forensic anthropology center laboratories, and non-profit organizations that work with state and county forensic offices for entry of data into CODIS of NamUS."

The legislation also allows for grant money to be used to hire more DNA case analysts and forensic odontologists to improve identification efforts and purchase new, state-of-the-art forensic equipment.

Under the legislation, privacy protections would be put in place for biological family reference samples uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System.

Border patrol would also receive authorization to purchase "up to 170 self-powering 9-1-1 cellular relay rescue beacons to mitigate migrant deaths on the southern border." The bill would also require grant applicants to information on missing persons to the National Crime Information Center and the National and Missing Unidentified Persons System.

Hurd argued Congress needs to address the "root causes" of mass migration if they are going to solve the issue and protect individuals from taking the dangerous journey from South American counties to the U.S. border.

"This bipartisan bill helps prevent tragic deaths along the border by expanding CBP’s rescue and apprehension capabilities," he said in a statement. "In addition, it mitigates the burdens placed on state and local governments to identify perished individuals with the dignity they deserve. I am proud to join my fellow Texans Rep. Gonzalez and Sen. Cornyn in providing a solution for this very real challenge faced by law enforcement agencies across my district.”

Gonzalez said the increased reporting requirements and resources are necessary for helping families get the answers they are looking for on missing loved ones.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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."