WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today introduced legislation requiring federal immigration authorities to take action against undocumented immigrants arrested for driving drunk. The legislation follows several recent incidents in which immigration authorities failed to detain individuals for drunk driving following fatal collisions, including one that claimed the life of 21-year-old Iowan Sarah Root.
“Nobody argues that drunk driving is not a public safety risk, so it’s remarkable that the Obama Administration’s own immigration enforcement priorities fail to take perpetrators off the street. Families coping with the grief of losing a loved one to such a reckless crime must also live with the reality that their government is quick to release offenders back into our communities. My bill keeps immigration authorities accountable by ensuring that undocumented immigrants who drive drunk are not allowed to put more lives at risk on America’s roads,” Grassley said.
Currently, the Obama Administration’s Priority Enforcement Program for people in the country unlawfully does not require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), even if it results in injury or death. Grassley’s bill requires federal immigration authorities to take custody and hold anyone in the country illegally who has been charged with DUI or DWI offenses. Specifically, the bill:
• Prohibits the release from federal custody of undocumented immigrants held for DUI or DWI offenses;
• Makes immigrants with three DUI/DWI convictions inadmissible to and removable from the country; and
• Makes three DUI/DWI convictions an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, allowing for expedited removal, precluding eligibility for certain benefits and permanently barring legal admission into the country.
Several recent tragedies underscore the need for this legislation:
January 2016: Eswin Mejia was charged with felony motor vehicle homicide after he struck and killed 21-year-old Iowan Sarah Root while drag racing drunk. Despite reported requests from local authorities, ICE refused to detain Mejia, allowing him to post bail. He remains at large.
February 2016: Jose Munoz Aguilar was arrested in Kentucky for drunk driving after he collided with a car occupied by two women, putting one in a coma. ICE promptly released Aguilar because he didn’t meet the Obama Administration’s enforcement priorities.
February 2016: Esmid Valentine Pedraza was charged in California with the murder of his girlfriend. In 2013, prior to the alleged murder, Pedraza was reportedly arrested by ICE and placed in removal proceedings after being convicted for DUI. Although ICE could have continued to detain him, ICE released him back onto the streets after he posted bond.
The bill is cosponsored by senators Joni Ernst, Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch, Roger Wicker, David Vitter, David Perdue, Jerry Moran, and Jim Inhofe.
Text of Grassley’s bill is available HERE.