An illegal immigrant -- who police said was drunk while street racing when he killed a Nebraska woman in a car crash -- wasn’t detained by immigration officials because his offense did “not constitute a crime of violence,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a March letter to Congress.
Edwin Mejia, 19, is accused of being drunk and driving recklessly when his vehicle slammed into 21-year-old Sarah Root’s car in January.
Root died at the hospital. Mejia later posted bond and fled. He’s been added to ICE’s “Most Wanted” list.
“Mr. Mejia should not need to be on this list – he should be in jail,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a March 30 statement. “ICE originally said that Mr. Mejia was not an ‘enforcement priority,’ but this morning he was placed on their Most Wanted list. The public still does not have a complete account of what went wrong.”
Sasse has been pressing for answers since his office issued a Feb. 29 letter to ICE Director Sarah Saldana. He called Saldana’s eventual response “bureaucratic nonsense” and wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on April 4 seeking a response that was not “an embarrassment to the hardworking men and women” at DHS.
Border agents first encountered Mejia in May 2013 when the 16-year-old arrived in Nogales, Ariz., from Honduras and was designated as an unaccompanied child, according to ICE’s initial response letter to Sasse. “As required by law,” Mejia was transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which then shipped him to Omaha in 2014 to live with his brother. It’s not clear if Mejia’s brother was legally in the U.S.
After Mejia’s January 2016 arrest for motor vehicle homicide, ICE officials “encountered Mr. Mejia just once,” but they did not file a detainer.
While Mejia’s actions didn’t fit the requirements for issuing a mandatory detainer, DHS personnel have discretionary ability to issue a detainer if the “removal of such alien would serve an important federal interest.”
“After further review, we believe that further enforcement action would have served an important federal interest in this case…,” the ICE response letter said.