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Sens. Cruz, Ernst, Colleagues Introduce ‘Sarah’s Law’ Ahead of the Fifth Anniversary of Sarah Root’s Death

January 28, 2021

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today introduced ‘Sarah's Law,' legislation 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. ‘Sarah's Law' 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.

Cosigners of the bill include: U.S. Sens. 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.), 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.).

Upon introduction, Sen. Cruz said:

"I am proud to cosponsor this bill to keep Texans and Americans safe, especially as the current administration works to encourage illegal immigration at the expense of our security. Sarah's Law ensures that illegal aliens with violent criminal records are detained and stopped from continuing to prey on innocent Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure we enforce federal immigration laws and prevent tragedies like Sarah's."

Sen. Ernst said:

"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."

Michelle Root, Sarah Root's mother, said:

"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."

Sen. Grassley said:

"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."

Sen. Braun said:

"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."\

Sen. Cornyn said:

"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. 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."

Sen. Cotton said:

"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."

Sen. Cramer said:

"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. 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."

Sen. Hyde-Smith said:

"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."

Sen. Inhofe said:

"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."

Sen. Lee said:

"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."

Sen. Rick Scott said:

"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."

Sen. Thune added:

"Sarah's Law would help restore justice for victims and their families. 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."

BACKGROUND:

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.

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