Ernst, Fischer introduce bipartisan bill requiring mandatory detention of illegal immigrants charged with crimes causing serious injury or death

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) on Thursday would help hold illegal immigrants responsible for crimes that lead to serious injury or death.

Sarah’s Law, named for 21-year-old Sarah Root, who was killed by a drunken driver who had entered the country illegally, would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain illegal immigrants who are charged with a crime that resulted in death or serious injury.

In Root’s case, ICE officials elected not to issue a detainer requesting that local authorities hold the suspected drunken driver, Edwin Mejia. Mejia disappeared shortly after his release.

“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,” Ernst said. “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’s Law would amend the mandatory detention provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to require the federal government to take custody of all illegal immigrants who are charged with a crime resulting in serious injury or death.

“Sarah Root and her family deserve justice for her tragic and untimely death,” Fischer said. “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.”

The Root family expressed its “sincere gratitude” to the bill’s authors — Ernst, Fischer and U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) — for working to ensure the mandatory detention of illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes that lead to serious injury or death.

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