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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today I introduce a bill to provide some assistance to those tens of thousands of Americans who have found themselves in one of the worst nightmares I can imagine--they are separated from their spouses, their children, and their parents. These Americans are struggling to locate their loved ones displaced by the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. They are searching the Astrodome, combing the Internet, hoping that their family members have survived the storm and will get in touch with them. A similar plight is faced by those victims who have weathered the storm and want to tell their family and friends that they are okay.

I have received dozens of calls to my offices in Illinois from constituents asking my caseworkers to help them locate their relatives lost in the Gulf Coast. Greta from Chicago was looking for her Aunt Perra Lee. John from Romeoville was looking for his children and grandchildren in Biloxi. The calls kept coming, but my staff could only point these constituents to various nonprofit organizations doing their best to provide locator services. There was no centralized Federal Government system in place to deal with this issue. Such a system should be in place.

The government must provide these people with a means to let their families know that they are out of harm's way. Various non-profit organizations and news services have done a stellar job at using the Internet to connect displaced people with their families. Our government, through the Department of Homeland Security, should synthesize the best aspects of these services, so that after an emergency, displaced individuals can call one phone number or go to one website, and post their location and condition. Family members and law enforcement officials should be able use this same secure, centralized system to check the status of missing loved ones.

I am introducing a bill--the National Emergency Family Locator System Act that will instruct the Department of Homeland Security to create such a system. I hope that the next time our country experiences a disaster like Katrina, this system will provide worried families with some sense of relief.

I hope my colleagues will support this legislation and I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.

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