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.  

Today, on the third anniversary of her death, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and 11 of their colleagues, re-introduced legislation in honor of Sarah, to allow federal law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person.

“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,” Ernst said.

Video: Ernst introduces Sarah’s Law:

“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,” Grassley said.

“Edwin Mejia’s mugshot shouldn’t be on a most wanted poster — Edwin Mejia should be in jail, serving hard time for the life he took and the pain he left behind,” Sasse said. “Sarah’s Law is common-sense legislation that Sarah and her family deserve to have signed into law. Congress should waste no time sending this legislation to the President’s desk for his signature.”

“No family should have to endure the tragedy and pain the Root family has experienced. Sarah’s Law would end the flawed policies that allowed her killer to evade justice. Let’s honor Sarah’s memory by enacting this important solution to make our communities safer,” Fischer said.

“We need to remember the story of Sarah and other victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants,” said U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “On December 29, 2018, Pierce Corcoran, the 22-year-old son of a Knoxville Fire Department captain, died after he was struck by a car driven by an undocumented immigrant who was in this country illegally for 14 years and is now in ICE custody. No family should have to suffer this tragic loss. No longer should our borders be left unpoliced for criminals, drug cartels, and human traffickers to slip across.”

“Americans killed or injured at the hands of criminals in our country illegally deserve justice,” said U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA). “Under no circumstances should an illegal immigrant get a ‘get out of jail free’ card after being charged with a deadly or serious crime. Three years later, Sarah Root’s killer is still on the run, and no American family should have to suffer that injustice. Imagine if Spencer Chauvin, Jermaine Starr and Vontarous Kelly’s killer had been allowed to disappear into society and never pay a price for stealing their lives?”

“Sarah’s murder was a great tragedy. That tragedy was compounded by her killer’s escape from justice. Sarah’s Law would ensure that federal law enforcement detains criminals who enter our country illegally and harm our citizens,” said U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). 

“It shouldn’t take a law to emphasize the protection of our citizens is a priority for any federal agency, especially in cases of illegal immigrants committing serious crimes.  Just so it’s clear, this legislation codifies President Trump’s executive order to ensure illegal immigrants who commit crimes are detained and held to account,” said U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).

“It is unconscionable that loopholes in our immigration system allow an illegal immigrant who has been charged with heinous crimes to be released into the communities, giving them the opportunity to skip bail or fail to appear for court. Sarah’s Law ensures that ICE can detain criminal offenders so we can bring them to justice,” said U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  

“Sarah’s Law will help fix our broken immigration system by holding people in this country illegally accountable for laws they break,” said Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS). “Loopholes in our immigration system shouldn’t allow criminals to walk free after taking an innocent life. Sarah’s Law will not only make our communities safer, it will help bring closure to families dealing with tragic losses, like the Roots.” 

“While this might seem like a common-sense proposal to many Americans, the current legal system presents several unnecessary hurdles with respect to detaining illegal immigrants who are accused of committing serious crimes. We owe it to victims and their loved ones, like Sarah Root and her family, to do everything we can to ensure the law is enforced and justice is served,” said U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD). 

“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 U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). “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.”

“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.

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