From left: U.S. Senators Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Deborah Fischer and Ben Sasse
From left: U.S. Senators Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Deborah Fischer and Ben Sasse
From left: U.S. Senators Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Deborah Fischer and Ben Sasse

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE), introduced Sarah’s Law, legislation to honor Sarah Root, an Iowan who was killed earlier this year by a drunk driver in the country illegally. Sarah’s Law would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take custody of an individual who is in the country illegally and is charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

On the night of her graduation, Sarah Root, a twenty-one year-old Iowan from Council Bluffs, was struck and killed in Omaha by Edwin Mejia, who entered the country illegally and was driving drunk – three times over the legal limit – and drag racing.

Following state criminal charges of motor vehicle homicide and outreach by local law enforcement, ICE declined to use its discretion to issue a detainer requesting that local authorities hold the individual until it could take custody. Mejia subsequently posted bond and has since disappeared. Nearly five months later, Mejia still remains at-large.

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.

Watch Ernst, Grassley, Fischer and Sasse give a joint press conference call:

“As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot fathom the anguish Sarah’s family is feeling knowing Edwin Mejia was released and remains at-large,” said Senator Ernst. “It is an outrage that our immigration system has become so convoluted that someone who came here illegally or overstayed their visa and is responsible for the death of an American citizen, is not considered an enforcement priority and is not detained. While nothing can relieve the Root family of their pain, we must honor Sarah and ensure that this injustice never happens again. Under this law, Mejia would have been detained by ICE and held accountable for his actions. Sarah’s Law brings us one step closer toward restoring justice.”

“Sarah Root was a bright, talented, energetic young woman whose life was taken far too early. The devastation felt by her family and friends is unimaginable. Her opportunity to make a mark on the world was cut short in part because of the reckless enforcement priorities of the Obama administration. By refusing to take custody of illegal criminal immigrants who pose a clear threat to safety, this administration is putting Iowans at risk,” said Senator Grassley. “Criminals must be taken off the streets. It’s time for this administration to rethink its policies and start enforcing the law.”

“Sarah Root and her family deserve justice for her tragic and untimely death,” said Senator Fischer. “Unfortunately, they may never see it because of ICE’s flawed policies. Edwin Mejia is an illegal immigrant who had previously been cited for multiple driving offenses. He should be in custody following the tragic crash that killed Sarah Root, but ICE failed to detain him and he escaped. This bill will mandate circumstances when ICE must detain illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes. It’s my hope that through this legislation we can help strengthen our laws and limit the chances of these tragedies from happening in the future.”

“Since February, my office has held the administration’s feet to the fire to get answers for the Root family and the public,” said Senator Sasse. “While the Administration still refuses to answer basic questions about why ICE let Ms. Root’s killer go free, Congress can make it absolutely clear that federal law requires ICE to immediately detain any illegal alien who kills or seriously injures someone. As I’ve said before: Mr. Mejia shouldn’t be on ICE’s Most Wanted List, he should be behind bars.”

“Our family would like to express our sincere gratitude to Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst, Senator Sasse, and Senator Fischer as well as their supporting staff for all of their efforts in introducing Sarah’s Law,” said the Root Family. “This law will not change the devastating outcome that our family and Sarah have endured, but it will help the next family avoid the pain of knowing that the person responsible for their loved one’s death remains at large. Requiring the mandatory detention of an illegal immigrant who commits motor vehicle homicide or causes serious bodily injury is necessary due to their increased flight risk. In addition, Sarah’s law will require ICE to provide victims’ families information about the custody status of the person who committed a crime against their loved one. Our family is thankful for all of the support from our community throughout this tragedy. Sarah’s Law will not only bring justice for Sarah, but to every American that is put in this unimaginable situation that our family has encountered.”

Click here to read the text of the bill.

Joint-Efforts by the Iowa and Nebraska Senators to Obtain Justice for Sarah Root:

  • On March 25, 2016 the Iowa and Nebraska Senators demanded answers from ICE Assistant Secretary Sarah Saldana on why the agency did not detain Edwin Mejia after he killed Sarah Root in a drunk driving incident.
  • On April 27, 2016 the Iowa and Nebraska Senators sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell demanding to know who was monitoring Edwin Mejia as he entered the country illegally as an unaccompanied minor.

Click here to read the text of the bill.


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