Progress Made Toward Implementing Parts of Sarah’s Law

Ernst: “Today’s action to increase communication between ICE and victims and their families is a long-overdue step in the right direction.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the opening of a new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office. This announcement, which fulfills the Trump administration’s executive order in January directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to establish such an office, also represents the implementation of parts of Sarah’s Law – legislation to honor Sarah Root, an Iowan who was killed in 2016 by a drunk driver who was in the country illegally. On January 5, 2017, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE), re-introduced Sarah’s Law, which included measures to mandate that ICE provide victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants and the victims’ families with relevant up-to-date information.

Following the announcement, Senator Ernst issued a statement:

“The many injustices Sarah Root and her family have suffered for more than a year now are simply incomprehensible,” said Senator Ernst. “Today’s action to increase communication between ICE and victims and their families is a long-overdue step in the right direction. Victims and families should not be left in the dark, and it is my hope that this office will ensure these folks receive the up-to-date information from federal immigration authorities they deserve.”

Language (in-part) from the Trump administration’s Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” issued January 25th:

Sec. 13.  Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.  The Secretary shall direct the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take all appropriate and lawful action to establish within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement an office to provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the family members of such victims.  This office shall provide quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.

Language in Sarah’s Law:

‘(3) NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENT- Upon encountering or gaining knowledge of an alien described in paragraph (1), the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement shall make reasonable efforts--

`(A) to obtain information from law enforcement agencies and from other available sources regarding the identity of any victims of the crimes for which such alien was charged or convicted; and

`(B) to provide the victim or, if the victim is deceased, a parent, guardian, spouse, or closest living relative of such victim, with information, on a timely and ongoing basis, including--

`(i) the alien's full name, aliases, date of birth, and country of nationality;

`(ii) the alien's immigration status and criminal history;

`(iii) the alien's custody status and any changes related to the alien's custody; and

`(iv) a description of any efforts by the United States Government to remove the alien from the United States.'.