U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chose not to honor a request for an immigration detainer after Omaha police arrested illegal alien Eswin Mejia after he struck and killed 21-year-old Sarah Root while driving drunk and street-racing the night of January 31. Mejia vanished shortly after posting bond.
According to Omaha’s World-Herald, Omaha Police accident investigator Dawn Turnbull repeatedly requested ICE detain Mejia after his arrest, to no avail. Despite facing up to 20 years in prison, the illegal alien was not determined a flight risk and ICE, following the Obama administration’s “priority enforcement program” (PEP), refused to detain him.
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in a statement to Breitbart News:
At the time of his January 2016 arrest in Omaha on local criminal charges, Eswin Mejia, 19, of Honduras, did not meet ICE’s enforcement priorities, as stated by the Nov. 20, 2014 civil enforcement memo issued by Secretary Johnson, because he had no prior significant misdemeanor or felony conviction record. As such, ICE did not lodge a detainer. Mejia is scheduled to go before an immigration judge on March 23, 2017, and it will be up to the immigration courts under the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to determine whether he has a legal basis to remain in the U.S.
How immigration courts can expect to determine whether or not Sarah Root’s illegal alien killer can remain in the U.S. when Mejia is nowhere to be found is unclear.
The World-Herald broke down a timeline of neglect on both the local and federal levels:
- Mejia, who was listed on his jail booking sheet as from Honduras and not a U.S. citizen, was graded a low risk to flee by Douglas County pretrial release officials, despite the fact that he had a warrant and twice had failed to appear in court. On a scale of 1 to 7 — the higher the number, the more risk of fleeing — the county’s pretrial release staff graded Mejia a 2.
- On Feb. 4, Douglas County Judge Jeff Marcuzzo set Mejia’s bail at 10 percent of $50,000 — meaning that Mejia had to post $5,000 cash to be released. The newspaper’s review of 10 motor vehicle homicide cases filed in Nebraska over the past two years showed that five judges set the same bail amount. Five other judges set higher bail amounts — 10 percent of $75,000, $250,000 (twice) and $500,000 (twice). All of the other defendants were U.S. citizens.
- It’s not clear whether the judge was informed of Mejia’s immigration status. Deputy Omaha Police Chief Dave Baker said late Friday that an accident investigator informed Deputy Douglas County Attorney Matt Kuhse of Mejia’s ICE status before Mejia was released from Nebraska Medical Center.
- In considering bail, a transcript shows, Marcuzzo did not give prosecutors a chance to state their position — something every judge typically does.
- After not receiving a chance to speak about bail, Deputy Douglas County Attorney David Wear did not interrupt Judge Marcuzzo. Nor did anyone object after the judge set bail at 10 percent of $50,000.
- Root’s father called Omaha Police accident investigator Dawn Turnbull concerned about Mejia’s bail amount.
- Turnbull repeatedly called ICE about detaining Mejia “due to bond amount and elevated flight risk,” Baker said. Eventually, Baker said, “her request is denied.” She and her lieutenant tried to call an ICE supervisor. The call was never returned, Baker said.
The bond hearing took less than two minutes, according to the report.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine told the World-Herald:
The judge just went, ‘Bam, here’s the bond.’ He’s running the show in terms of how the hearing’s conducted. We weren’t given an opportunity to speak. In some ways, I wish our person would have just stopped the proceeding and said, ‘We think that’s an insufficient bond,’ but that didn’t happen. No one’s saying that people need to be profiled. But when we have someone who has been arrested for a serious crime — and they’re not here legally — they have every reason in the world to flee… There has to be a common-sense communication between the feds and the state… For him to be able to evade prosecution is tremendously frustrating to us. And I know that’s true for [Sarah Root’s] family and for police as well.
The Obama administration’s PEP program discourages ICE agents from enforcing immigration law every time an alien violates it: “PEP… further restricts the criteria for deportation,” wrote the Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan in 2015. “Now, only certain convicted felons, offenders with three separate misdemeanor convictions, and some new illegal arrivals will be considered appropriate for deportation. And ICE officers are told to make exceptions even to these categories if certain factors exist, such as family or community ties, illness, pregnancy, or other exceptions… National sanctuary policies like PEP are a tragedy waiting to happen.”
The day before the crash, Root graduated from Bellvue University with a 4.0 GPA and a B.S. in crime investigation. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help her family as they mourn her loss.
Email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.