WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) cosponsored legislation introduced by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and 10 other colleagues to allow federal law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person. The legislation was re-introduced in honor of Sarah Root, who was tragically killed 3 years ago today.
On January 31, 2016, the night of her graduation, Sarah Root, a twenty-one year-old Iowan from Council Bluffs, was struck and killed in Omaha, Neb., by Edwin Mejia, who entered the country illegally and was driving drunk – three times over the legal limit.
“Three years after Sarah Root’s tragic and preventable death, it is alarming that the illegal immigrant who killed her remains at large, and that cannot be repeated in future cases,” said Senator Tillis.“We cannot continue to allow illegal immigrants who are dangerous criminals to remain at large in our communities. This legislation will prevent these injustices in the future and ensure illegal immigrants who are charged with killing or seriously injuring another person will be in federal custody and removed from the United States.”
“It is wholly unacceptable that someone who is here illegally and is responsible for the death of another human being is not considered an enforcement priority nor is detained by ICE. We have an obligation to the Root family, and to the American people, to ensure that no person falls victim to this injustice again. Sarah’s Law brings us one step closer to restoring justice in our broken immigration system by allowing ICE to detain and hold these criminals accountable,” said Senator Ernst.
“The tragic death of Sarah Root three years ago and the ongoing search for her killer underscore the serious attention border security and immigration enforcement require in America. Sarah’s life was cut short by an undocumented immigrant who disregarded the rule of law and decided to get behind the wheel after drinking. The Obama Administration refused to take custody of Sarah’s killer because it didn’t consider him a priority, allowing him to disappear into the shadows. The Roots have been robbed of their daughter, and at least for now, they have been robbed of justice. Our legislation, named in Sarah’s memory, will ensure that those who harm or kill Americans will be taken into custody and removed while also ensuring that victims and their families get the information they deserve from the government as they pursue justice,” said Senator Grassley.
“Our family is very grateful for Senator Ernst and her willingness to continue to push for Sarah’s Law. It means a lot to us that she is reintroducing this bill on the third anniversary of Sarah’s death. This law is to make sure no other family has to go through what our family has. Sarah’s killer is still on the run and if this law was in place when she was killed we wouldn’t be looking for her killer today – he would be in custody and serving his time,” said Michelle Root, mother of Sarah Root.
Following state criminal charges of motor vehicle homicide and outreach by local law enforcement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used its discretion to decline to issue a detainer on Edwin Mejia, Sarah’s killer. Subsequently, Mejia posted bond, disappeared and now, three years later, still remains at-large.
About Sarah’s Law:
Sarah’s Law would amend the mandatory detention provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to require the federal government to take custody of anyone who entered the country illegally, violated the terms of their immigration status or had their visa revoked and is thereafter charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.
The legislation also requires ICE to make reasonable efforts to identify and provide relevant information to the crime victims or their families. Under this law, Mejia would have been detained by law enforcement and not allowed to flee from justice. The Root family would have been kept up-to-date on Mejia’s status and federal immigration authorities’ efforts to remove him from the United States.
In January 2017, President Trump implemented major parts of Sarah’s Law via Executive Order, which included prioritized detention of criminal illegal immigrants and the creation of the Office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. Passage of Sarah’s Law would codify the order into law, to prevent future administrations from withdrawing President Trump’s executive order, or deprioritizing the detention of illegal immigrants who commit crimes involving death or serious bodily injury, and restricting information to victims of such crimes.
To read the text of the bill, click here.