WASHINGTON — A woman whose only daughter was killed by an illegal immigrant in Nebraska pleaded with a congressional subcommittee Tuesday to enforce existing immigration law, arguing that President Obama’s policies have rewarded her daughter’s killer.
Sarah Root had just graduated from college when her vehicle was struck Jan. 31 by a driver whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, according to police.
Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) rejected a request from local authorities to issue a detainer on Eswin G. Mejia. He is currently on the loose after posting $5,000 bail and fleeing the area.
Michelle Root, mother of Sarah Root, said during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing titled “The Real Victims of a Reckless and Lawless Immigration Policy” that U.S. Marshals and law enforcement have “little or no information” on Mejia’s whereabouts.
“Edwin was not a stranger to law enforcement and failed to honor his legal obligations for minor traffic infractions. Now a failed local judicial system that set his bail too low coupled with flawed Obama administration policies have rewarded the illegal and punished my family and hampered law enforcement in their investigations,” she said.
“The arrest and conviction of Eswin will not bring my Sarah back, but it will give my family and her friends closure and the knowledge that justice has prevailed. Despite all the tragedy, Sarah is the hero in this story. She was an organ donor and unselfishly saved the lives of six individuals through her donation and helped another four dozen through her donation of tissue and bone,” Root continued.
“America is a nation of immigrants, legal immigrants. My family, like many Americans, holds no ill will to people who desire the American dream, we just ask that controls be put into place to control the entry and that they be documented and vetted through legal means so if such an incident were to occur again they could be held accountable and another family would not have to experience the pain and frustration that our family and Sarah’s friends have experienced,” she added.
Laura Wilkerson, mother of Pearland, Texas, teen Joshua Wilkerson, said her son’s killer gave “exact testimony” on how he systematically murdered the high school senior in 2010.
During the trial, Wilkerson found out that the killer, Hermilo Moralez, was previously arrested for stalking an ex-girlfriend but was released despite residing in the U.S. illegally.
“First a punch in the face, so his vision was off. Next a knee to Josh’s abdomen so that he would go to the ground. Josh went to the ground as his spleen was sliced in half. This killer was aggravated that it was not over, he grew tired of watching bloody bubbles coming from Josh’s nose as he was trying to breathe,” she told the subcommittee.
“He tied Josh’s body up, stuffed him in the backseat of our truck, bought gas, dumped Josh in a field and set his body on fire. The killer went home, took a shower and went to see a movie,” she added.
Wilkerson called for lawmakers to crack down on sanctuary cities that do not report crimes committed by illegal immigrants to federal authorities. In some cases, these individuals commit additional crimes after being released.
“I didn’t bring my kid across a border. If I would have told my daughter I am going to Mexico and had a man, you know, he’ll bring you over in a year or two, I would be charged with neglect as well as I should be. I didn’t put my kid in harm’s way when he went to school that day. You did. Every one of you is elected by an American. It’s time for you to stand in the gap for Americans,” she said.
“Do something. Every one of you is in a position to do something we are not,” she added.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church offered her condolences to the mothers at the hearing but urged lawmakers not to judge the entire illegal immigrant population based on those who commit crimes on U.S. soil.
“It was violent and it was terrible, but we cannot scapegoat a whole community because of the actions of individuals,” she said.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) took issue with Carcaño’s position.
“We welcome more immigrants than any country in the world and, frankly, because of you and people like you we are not fixing this problem and we are allowing this to happen,” he said. “I think it’s shameful and I think if you really care about your community you are going to help us fix this immigration system, not try to use excuses and call people who are trying to do this racist and scapegoating.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said it is “not correct” to suggest that illegal immigrants are recklessly released by ICE.
“Sometimes mistakes are made,” she said. “DUI is an enforcement priority under the November 20 resolution. Domestic violence is an enforcement priority. I’m not here to say ICE has never made a mistake, but the policy is not to deport people in the DUI area is simply inaccurate.”
Lofgren also said Congress allots enough funds to deport less than 4 percent of the unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. annually.
According to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, criminal aliens went on to commit 124 homicide-related offenses between 2010 and 2014 following their release from DHS custody.
“Those released in 2014 alone committed 1,423 additional crimes after their release from custody, including vehicular homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and driving under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “At least 95 percent of convicted criminal aliens known to DHS are not detained. How does that policy protect the American people? The harm is real, the risk is great, yet the consequences are largely avoidable if this administration were to simply enforce the law.”
Citing similar statistics, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said President Obama might be an “accessory” to the crimes committed by illegal immigrants given his administration’s immigration policies.
“Over a recent three-year period the administration has released back into our communities over 100,000 criminal aliens,” he said. “These individuals subsequently committed thousands of other crimes. Many individuals were murdered. Many individuals were injured. Other individuals lost their property.”
Smith said an illegal immigrant in the U.S. is “about 10 times more likely” to commit a serious crime compared to other individuals.
“All this makes me wonder if President Obama might be an accessory to the crimes committed by illegal immigrants since he intentionally implemented policies he knows are going to result in the murder and loss of life and injury to innocent Americans,” he said.
Sheriff Charles Jenkins of Frederick County, Md., warned that gang violence is rising in the areas surrounding his county. He urged action from lawmakers on border security and stronger enforcement of federal immigration law to curb crime.
Jenkins said “every county in America will become a border county” if Congress and the next president do not secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Open borders, reckless sanctuary policies, and failure to enforce our immigration laws have greatly impacted public safety and national security throughout every jurisdiction of this country,” he said. “Every single day, more Americans are becoming victims of senseless crimes, being injured and killed by criminal aliens, many are transnational gang members.”