Sarah Root

An immigration amnesty bill is subject of a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today but Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the panel is “focused on the wrong thing.”

Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, says they instead should be concentrating on finding solutions to the “border crisis.” “It’s this administration’s new policies, promises and rhetoric that have created the crisis,” Grassley says. “You see it every day, hundreds wading the Rio Grande to come to this country in violation of our laws.”

Grassley quoted reports that said on one recent day, people from 35 different nations crossed into the U.S. illegally along our southern border with Mexico. Iowan Michelle Root is scheduled to testify during today’s hearing. She’s the mother of a young woman from Council Bluffs who died in an accident five years ago in Omaha.

“You may remember that her daughter, Sarah Root, was killed in a car crash by a drunk driving, undocumented immigrant,” Grassley says. “He’d been released by federal law enforcement because of some legal loophole.” The crash took place on January 31st of 2016, a matter of hours after Root graduated with honors from Bellevue University. Omaha police said 19-year-old Eswin Mejia, a native of Honduras, was drag racing and caused the crash, but he was released on bail and disappeared.

Grassley says he probably fled the country and likely will never be brought to justice. New legalization measures with no discussion of border security, Grassley says, are “a recipe for an even-longer crisis.” “We should be sympathetic to the circumstances of young people who are illegally brought to this country as children,” Grassley says. “That decision wasn’t up to those children. Their parents violated the law.”

Such measures, he says, need to be considered alongside legislation that promotes the rule of law and that would prevent future tragedies like what the Root family has endured.