Tonight, nearly every Senate Democrat rejected an amendment led by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) that would require federal law enforcement to prioritize detaining and prosecuting illegal immigrants charged with violent crimes, similar to her bill, Sarah’s Law.
“Five years ago, a loophole in the law allowed an illegal immigrant to escape justice after murdering a young Iowan, Sarah Root. Tonight, my Democratic colleagues sided with violent illegal immigrants – like Sarah’s killer – and turned their backs on justice,” said Senator Ernst. “Iowa families, and families across our country, need to know that the federal government will do everything possible to keep us safe and hold violent criminals accountable, and it’s a sad day when so many of my colleagues can’t even agree to uphold that promise.”
Ernst’s amendment was supported unanimously by Senate Republicans, while nearly every Senate Democrat voted against it. This amendment would not increase the number of people who are eligible for deportation, but simply make sure that those illegal immigrants who are charged with deadly crimes stay in custody.
Sarah’s Law, which is named after Sarah Root—an Iowan killed by an illegal immigrant who was released by federal law enforcement due to a loophole in the law and never faced justice—requires federal law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person. In just his first week in office, President Biden reversed the Trump Administration’s executive order that includes parts of 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, Sarah’s killer 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 his 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. President Biden revoked this order on his first day in office. Passage of Sarah’s Law would codify the order into law, to prevent future administrations from deprioritizing the detention of illegal immigrants who commit crimes involving death or serious bodily injury, and restricting information to victims of such crimes.
In August, Senate Democrats blocked Senator Ernst’s attempt to pass her legislation. After the Democrats blocked the bill, Senator Ernst joined Michelle Root, Sarah’s mom, for an interview with KETV to discuss the importance of the bill. In the interview, Michelle Root stated, “I don’t get her [Sarah] back after this. This is for everyone else. This is to help so the next person doesn’t have to go through the same thing.”