In the early morning on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2016, Michelle and Scott Root received the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare: Their daughter, Sarah, had been killed in a car accident.
Sarah, a 21-year-old from Council Bluffs, had graduated from Bellevue University in Nebraska earlier that day and was headed home after celebrating with her friends and family. While stopped at a traffic light, she was struck and killed by Edwin Mejia, an illegal immigrant who was driving drunk — three times over the legal limit.
And the worst part? Due to a loophole in federal law, Mejia was released on bond and never seen again.
Today, Sarah’s killer is still evading law enforcement, and the Root family has yet to see justice. No family should have to endure the pain of losing a child like the Root family did, which is why on the seventh anniversary of Sarah’s death, we reintroduced Sarah’s Law.
Sarah’s Law is simple. It closes the alarming loophole that let her killer go free by requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person.
It also requires ICE to inform victims and family members of critical information pertaining to the investigation.
These minor reforms will save lives and help protect families in Iowa and across the country. Simply put, this is the most common-sense reform we can make.
Sarah’s death is tragic, but she and the Root family are not the only ones suffering as a result of broken and ill-informed policies. That’s why we are also working to secure our Southern border, finish construction of the border wall, and prosecute drug traffickers who are flooding our communities with deadly fentanyl.
Since the beginning of the Joe Biden administration, more than 4 million illegal immigrants have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The crisis has worsened to the point that even Gov. Kim Reynolds deployed Iowa State Troopers to support the overwhelming work of Border Patrol agents in Texas to defend our nation’s sovereignty.
President Biden’s intentional failure to secure our border and hold the cartels accountable has real consequences. A simple fix, like Sarah’s Law, and physically securing the Southern border are two steps that could be taken today.
No matter what the president does, we will continue to honor Sarah’s legacy by advocating for this lifesaving legislation — for as long as it takes — to deliver justice for Sarah and to prevent such a horrific tragedy from devastating another innocent American family.
Randy Feenstra of Hull represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Joni Ernst of Red Oak is Iowa’s junior senator in the U.S. Senate.
As published in the N'West Iowa Review.