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As Biden Administration Rolls Back Immigration Enforcement, Ernst Reintroduces ‘Sarah’s Law’ Ahead of the Fifth Anniversary of Sarah Root’s Death

Ernst’s bill is named in honor of Sarah Root—a young Iowan who was killed by an illegal immigrant who was released by federal law enforcement due to a loophole in the law

WASHINGTON—As the Biden Administration is rolling back immigration enforcement and reversing President Trump’s executive order prioritizing prosecuting illegal immigrants convicted of violent crimes, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is reintroducing her commonsense bill, “Sarah’s Law.”

The legislation, 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.

“Five years ago, a loophole allowed an illegal immigrant who murdered a young Iowan to escape the country and justice. We need families in Iowa, and across the country, to know that the federal government will do everything possible to hold murderers accountable. Sarah’s Law brings us one step closer to restoring justice in our broken immigration system by allowing federal law enforcement to detain and prosecute violent criminals,” said Senator Ernst.

“Sarah's family is very grateful to have such a compassionate senator like Senator Ernst.  She has continued to push for Sarah's Law every year, around Sarah's death date; she never gives up on this.  This is such a common sense law and I truly can't understand why it hasn't passed. This law is not just about Sarah but also about the tens of thousands out there just like her. We truly appreciate Senator Ernst’s continued fight for the rule of law and honoring our beautiful daughter Sarah,” said Michelle Root, Sarah Root’s mother.

Ernst is joined in the effort by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).

“The tragic death of Sarah Root and the search for her killer underscore the serious attention border security and immigration enforcement require in America. Sarah’s life was cut short by an undocumented immigrant who disregarded the rule of law and decided to get behind the wheel after drinking.  The Obama/Biden Administration refused to take custody of Sarah’s killer because it didn’t consider him a priority, allowing him to disappear into the shadows. Sadly, it appears the Biden Administration is now seeking a return to the failed and dangerous immigration policies of the Obama years. The Roots have been robbed of their daughter, and at least for now, they have been robbed of justice.  Our legislation, named in Sarah’s memory, will ensure that those who harm or kill Americans will be taken into custody and removed while also ensuring that victims and their families get the information they deserve from the government as they pursue justice,” said Senator Grassley.

“Sarah’s Law will target the loopholes in our immigration system that allowed an illegal immigrant to evade justice after taking a precious life. We must remember Sarah’s story and the families of Tennessee victims such as the Corcorans, who lost their son Pierce in a car accident caused by an illegal immigrant. No other American family should have to endure such injustice,” said Senator Blackburn.   

“I support Sarah’s Law to fix a broken policy that has denied justice to American families. When an illegal immigrant commits a crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury to another person, immigration enforcement should be required to detain that person,” said Senator Braun.

"While many enter the United States in search of a better life, those who come across our border and commit vicious crimes must be brought to justice," said Senator Cornyn. "Sarah's Law will help ensure justice is delivered to the families of their victims and that these dangerous criminals will never again hurt anyone else."

“President Biden’s early actions as president make clear that protecting American citizens from violent illegal immigrants isn’t a priority for his administration—but it should be. Sarah’s Law would ensure that federal law enforcement detains criminals who enter our country illegally and harm our citizens,” said Senator Cotton.

“Twenty-one year-old Sarah Root was killed on the night of her graduation by someone who illegally entered the United States and was driving drunk in Omaha, Nebraska. Her story is heartbreaking and should never be forgotten,” said Senator Cramer. “Our legislation pays tribute to her memory by granting federal law enforcement officers the authority to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring someone. Backed by a powerful, tragic story, this commonsense legislation protects American citizens and better equips our law enforcement.”

“There’s a certain lack of common sense for anybody charged with a heinous crime, let alone an illegal immigrant, to be carelessly released back into communities.” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “Sarah’s Law closes loopholes in our immigration system that currently allow violent criminals to escape from justice.”

“We should all agree that every violent criminal must be brought to justice—that’s commonsense. It is hard to believe loopholes in our immigration system still exist that allow an illegal immigrant charged with heinous crimes to be released into American communities without justice. As a result, these criminals often disappear into the country and escape accountability for their vicious crimes. We need to enact Sarah’s Law so that ICE can detain violent criminal aliens so we can bring them to justice and prevent future atrocities,” said Senator Inhofe.

“There are over 10 million immigrants that are in this country unlawfully. We owe it to the American people to make sure the most dangerous of those unlawfully present, those that have been charged with a crime resulting in the death of an American, are properly detained and appropriately prosecuted. We can’t let more Americans like Sarah Root die because illegal immigrants were not properly detained for their crimes,” said Senator Lee.

“We know the Biden Administration is pushing a radical immigration agenda of amnesty and open borders that will threaten American safety. We can’t let that happen. True immigration reform starts with a secure border and safeguards to protect American families from bad actors. I’m glad to join my colleagues to co-sponsor Sarah's Law to make sure victims and their families get justice and help prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” said Senator Rick Scott.

“Sarah’s Law would help restore justice for victims and their families,” said Senator Thune. “What happened to Sarah Root was heartbreaking in its own right, but this loophole in our immigration system also failed her family and community. The fact that Sarah’s killer still remains at large underscores the need to enact this commonsense reform.”

About 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.”