Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) objected on Thursday to Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) request to have the Senate vote on Sarah’s Law, which would strengthen Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention policies.
On the Senate floor on Thursday morning, Ernst called on the Senate to provide for unanimous consent of Sarah’s Law.
Sarah’s Law is named after a young Iowan, Sarah Root, who was killed by Edwin Mejia, an illegal immigrant and drunk driver. Mejia killed Root on the day of her college graduation. Mejia was driving drunk with a blood-alcohol content over three times the legal limit when he killed Root.
ICE failed to detain Mejia in 2016 because of, in Ernst’s terms, a “nonsensical policy” that grants ICE the discretion to determine if it will detain a criminal alien when charged with a violent offense. After local law enforcement arrested Mejia, he posted bail, was released, and was never seen again.
Soon after learning of this situation, Ernst introduced Sarah’s Law, which requires ICE to take custody of illegal immigrants if they are charged with a crime that seriously injures and are released from custody. The law would also mandate that the government create a better victim notification system.
Since Ernst’s introduction of the law, Trump implemented parts of Sarah’s Law through an executive order. Passing Sarah’s Law would enshrine the ICE detention practice in law.
During her Senate floor speech, Ernst painted her legislation as a simple fix in ICE detention policy that would give families solace, knowing that illegal immigrants would not escape justice.
“Today, I rise to call on my Senate colleagues to end this senseless madness. To do something and stop another tragedy like this from happening with a simple and clean fix,” she said.
Udall then objected to Ernst’s call for unanimous consent, which allows for the consideration of Sarah’s Law.
Udall said that although Root’s family “suffered a terrible loss,” he has concerns “that this bill uses a tragedy to paint immigrants as more dangerous than other people, which is false by all available data.”
“This bill does nothing to improve our immigration system,” he added. Udall then stated that the Senate should not consider any immigration bills without any consideration to adding protection or amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Ernst said after Udall’s objection that without moving forward on Sarah’s Law, many families will wonder, “How many others will be subjected to the pain and agony that they have gone through since the loss of Sarah? How many other families will go through that?”