Council Bluffs resident Sarah Root had just graduated from Bellevue University with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
She had her whole, bright future ahead of her.
But one day after Sarah’s college graduation in January 2016, Eswin Mejia stole her future when he crashed into her car, fatally injuring her. Police report that Mejia’s blood alcohol content was .241 – three times the legal limit to drive.
Sarah never regained consciousness. She passed away several days later when she was removed from life-support.
For Sarah’s family the tragedy of losing her was exasperated because the opportunity to bring Sarah’s killer, Eswin Mejia, to justice was denied.
Mejia was well-known to law enforcement and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency because he was an illegal immigrant from Honduras with a criminal record.
He disappeared after ICE failed to act on local law enforcement detainment requests, and has not been seen since posting bail in February of 2016. It is believed he fled justice and responsibility for his crimes by returning to Honduras.
It is no question there were serious mishandlings in this tragic case. The federal government’s lack of enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws is troubling and unacceptable.
In 2016, I first introduced legislation in Congress to ensure nothing like this happens again. The legislation is called Sarah’s Law. I led this effort in the U.S. House of Representatives in the previous 114th Congress, and was pleased my colleague, Nebraska Representative Don Bacon, joined me in reintroducing this legislation in January shortly after the start of the current 115th Congress. My Iowa colleagues Senator Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Sarah’s Law amends existing mandatory detention provisions in place under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It requires federal authorities – ICE in this case – to take custody of any individual charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, who has entered or remains in the United States illegally. Sarah’s Law also mandates ICE make reasonable efforts to update the victims or their families with relevant information about the criminal or the federal agency’s efforts.
On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass legislation known as the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (H.R. 3003) which I am proud to report included language from Sarah’s Law.
Sarah’s mother, Michelle Root, sat in the House Gallery of the U.S. Capitol Building to witness the passage of legislation.
Including Sarah’s Law language in this legislation is a huge step forward to ensure criminals don’t fall through the cracks because of current bureaucratic confusion. It is now awaiting consideration by the U.S. Senate.
Together we can work to protect our families and communities in Iowa and across America by enforcing the rule of law, holding our federal law enforcement accountable, and ensuring criminals illegally in this country face justice. While nothing can bring Sarah back, we are preserving her memory and honor her with the enactment of Sarah’s Law.