Democrats Block Sen. Ernst’s Bill to Detain Violent Criminals

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Thursday, Senate Democrats blocked U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) commonsense bill, Sarah’s Law. Ernst has worked to pass this important bill in honor of Sarah Root, a twenty-one-year-old Iowan from Council Bluffs, who 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.

Despite repeated requests by local law enforcement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), failed to detain Mejia, because of a nonsensical policy that allows ICE to use discretion when determining whether to detain a criminal alien charged with a violent offense. He posted bond, was released, and disappeared.

In 2017, President Trump implemented parts of Sarah’s Law through an executive order, including directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of violent criminals. During the 116th Congress, Sarah’s Law has gathered 25 cosponsors.

Ernst’s bill would codify a fix to this policy, and require that ICE take custody of a person who is in the country illegally if they are charged with a crime that seriously injures another person. It also mandates a better victim notification system that lets victims and their families know what happened to their loved ones.

Following her attempt to pass her legislation, Senate Democrats blocked her efforts. Watch Ernst’s response below

Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:

“If you’re a person just watching politics back home, you probably see a common theme: talking.

“No matter the topic, people in D.C. like to talk but not get much done.

“There’s one topic that’s especially guilty of this, and that’s immigration.

“Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal…we know our immigration system is broken…that’s an easy statement to make, but nothing ever changes and we need to start getting things done.

“In Iowa, we’ve learned this in a tragic way.

“On January 31st, 2016 – the same day as her college graduation – Sarah Root was killed by an illegal immigrant named Edwin Mejia. He was drag racing with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.

“Despite repeated requests by local law enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement failed to detain Mejia because of a nonsensical policy that allows ICE to use discretion when determining whether to detain a criminal alien charged with a violent offense.

“He posted bond, he was released, and he disappeared. Still, more than four years later, he remains a fugitive – denying Sarah’s loved ones any sense of justice or closure.

“As a mother, I cannot fathom the grief that her family and friends continue to feel after such a devastating loss.

“Sarah had her whole future ahead of her, but her opportunity to make her mark on the world was tragically cut short.

“Yet even in death, she touched the lives of others – saving six different individuals through organ donation.


“Sadly, what happened to Sarah is not an isolated incident. We have seen this story play out time and time again in the more than four years since Sarah’s killing. Innocent lives taken by criminals that entered the United States illegally through a porous border—but nothing ever changes.

“Although nothing can bring Sarah back to her family, we can ensure that ICE never makes the same mistake again.

“Today, I rise to call upon my Senate colleagues to end this senseless madness. To do something and stop another tragedy like this from happening with a simple and clean fix. I am asking the Senate to join 26 of their colleagues and pass my bill, S. 285, Sarah’s Law.

“Sarah’s Law is simple: it requires that ICE take custody of a person who is in the country illegally if they are charged with a crime that seriously injures another person. It also mandates a better victim notification system that lets victims and their families know what happened to their loved ones.

“Sarah’s Law is about as commonsense a reform as there is. It recognizes the simple fact that all criminals should be held accountable for their actions, and not simply allowed to slip back into the shadows. If Sarah’s Law is passed…people who are in this country illegally and murder another person would be prioritized for deportation if released…who could be opposed to this?

“Here’s a bit of good news: President Trump implemented parts of Sarah’s Law through an executive order in 2017, including directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of violent criminals.

“Despite provisions of Sarah’s Law being put in place by President Trump’s order, it is critical that the Senate codify these enforcement priorities, so that they cannot be removed by future administrations. This may seem crazy to those watching at home but criminal aliens charged with homicide were allowed to escape detention in previous administrations.

“No family should ever have to endure such a tragedy, especially one that could have been prevented.

“I recognize that the immigration debate has become a political football. But justice for victims and their families is not a game.

“Mr. President, this bill isn’t about the southern border or the wall or visa numbers or the larger immigration debate at all…this bill is about changing the system for the better and ensuring that families have the promise of justice.

“I intend to fulfill that promise to Sarah’s loving parents – Michelle Root and Scott Root – the promise that I will do everything I can to ensure that not one more parent has to go through what the Roots have faced…the loss of both their daughter and the promise of justice.”