WASHINGTON—On January 31, 2016, the night of her graduation, 21-year-old Sarah Rootwas struck and killed in Omaha, Nebraska,by Edwin Mejia, a drunk driver who was in the U.S. illegally.
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 Mejia, Sarah’s killer. Subsequently, Mejia posted bond, disappeared, and now, three years later, still remains at-large.
Today, the third anniversary of her death, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Deb Fischer (R-NE),Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tim Scott (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), David Perdue (R-GA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) reintroduced legislation named after Sarahthat would require federal law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person.
“Americans killed or injured at the hands of criminals in our country illegally deserve justice,” said Dr. Cassidy. “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?”
“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 Sarah’s mother Michelle Root.
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.