Sarah Root

In January of last year, Iowa lost a beautiful and smart 21-year-old young woman with a bright future, an innocent victim of a drunken driving incident. Sarah Root, a Council Bluffs resident and Iowa Third Congressional District constituent, was killed on the night of her graduation by Eswin Mejia, an illegal immigrant from Honduras with a criminal record who was drunk and recklessly got behind the wheel.

Mejia, who disappeared after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to act on local law enforcement detainment requests, has not been seen since posting bail last February. ICE Director Sarah Saldaña has admitted that it is doubtful he will show up for his court hearing this year. A year has now passed, Mejia is still missing, and a family and a community continues to mourn.

It is no question there were serious mishandlings in this tragic case. The federal government’s lack of enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws is troubling and unacceptable. An illegal immigrant responsible for the death of an American citizen as a result remains at large.

The first bill I introduced in this new session of Congress honors the memory of Sarah. Sarah’s Law ensures nothing like this happens again. I led this effort in the U.S. House of Representatives last Congress, and I was pleased my colleague, Nebraska Representative Don Bacon, joined me in reintroducing this legislation this month. My Iowa colleague Senator Joni Ernst introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Sarah’s Law amends existing mandatory detention provisions in place under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It requires federal authorities – ICE in this case – to take custody of any individual charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person who has entered or remains in the United States illegally. Sarah’s Law also mandates ICE to make reasonable efforts to update the victims or their families with relevant information about the criminal or the federal agency’s efforts.

Together we can work to protect our families and communities in Iowa and across America by enforcing the rule of law, holding our federal law enforcement accountable, and ensuring criminals illegally in this country face justice. While nothing can bring Sarah back, we can preserve her memory and honor her with Sarah’s Law.

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