U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen

A bipartisan bill introduced last month to help border communities with the resources to identify unidentified remains is likely to become law.

During a voice vote Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, along with other lawmakers, voted to pass the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act. The bill will go to the President to be officially signed into law.

The Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2020, was introduced by Congressmen Gonzalez and Will Hurd as a companion bill to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s and Vice President-Elect and California Sen. Kamala Harris’s legislation passed in the senate last month.

“Border communities are currently shouldering the costs of identifying and recovering the remains of migrants who tragically perish while migrating to the United States,” Gonzalez said.

“This legislation will provide much needed aid for South Texas municipalities, sheriffs, farmers and ranchers to address this critical issue.

The legislation sets out to help local officials with the appropriate resources to be able to record and report missing persons and unidentified remains found in areas along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a news release.

The legislation will expand grant eligibility to allow applicants from state and local governments, select accredited forensic labs, medical examiners, nonprofit organizations and other uses of the National Crime Information Center.

In addition to expanding eligibility, it would require reporting to the NCIC, for missing persons and people found dead in the applicant’s jurisdiction, and add privacy protections for biological family reference samples that could be entered into a DNA index system.

The bill would also provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection resources that would help them locate and rescue people who get lost on their trek along the border.

“Unless we invest time and resources to address the root causes of migration from Central America, we will continue to witness these tragic deaths in our border region,” Gonzalez said during the vote Wednesday.

Additionally, it authorizes the use of grant funds to cover costs incurred in prior years; specifically fiscal year 2017 costs, including transportation, processing, identification and reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains; and for the hiring of additional case analysts and technicians, among others, the release states.

The bill is endorsed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, the Texas Border Coalition, the National Criminal Justice Association, the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, among others, the release states.