Washington, D.C.  – The Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee today held a hearing on “The Real Victims of a Reckless and Lawless Immigration Policy: Families and Survivors Speak Out on the Real Cost of This Administration’s Policies.” At the hearing, members of the subcommittee examined the significant public safety threat posed by criminal aliens and heard from some of the victims they have left in their wake as a result of the Obama Administration’s abandonment of immigration enforcement and its failure to secure the border.


  • The Obama Administration’s so-called immigration enforcement priorities have allowed tens of thousands of criminal aliens to stay in the United States and continue their criminal activity. At least 95% of convicted criminal aliens known to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are not detained.
  • Between October 2011 and December 2014, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released criminal aliens from detention over 105,000 times. Examples of crimes committed before their release include assault, sexual assaults, homicide-related offenses, and kidnapping.

Hearing Takeaways:

  • At the hearing, members of the Immigration Subcommittee heard from two mothers who lost children at the hands of unlawful immigrants.
    • Sarah Root was killed by an unlawful immigrant drunk driver on January 31, 2016. Only hours before her death, she graduated from college with a 4.0 average and a degree in investigations.  DHS did not consider her killer an enforcement priority and did not issue a detainer for his arrest. As a result, he posted a state bail bond and fled.
    • Joshua Wilkerson was tortured and murdered in 2010 by an alien who had overstayed his visa for eight years.  The killer was arrested on a harassment charge only months before, but ICE did not seek to take custody of him.  The District Attorney who prosecuted the murder case couldn’t explain why ICE did not have an interest in him, despite the fact that ICE regularly reviewed the county jail roster.
  • Michelle Root, mother of Sarah Root, and Laura Wilkerson, mother of Josh Wilkerson, testified that the Obama Administration must enforce immigration laws and expressed support for legislation to strengthen the enforcement of U.S. immigration law.
  • Sheriff Charles Jenkins of Frederick County, Maryland testified that the Obama Administration’s weakening of immigration law has allowed criminal gangs to flourish in his community. In fact, 64% of the criminal alien gang members encountered by law enforcement in Frederick County in 2015 were unaccompanied minors who came to the U.S. as part of the ongoing border surge.

Key Videos:

Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) opening statement:

“This administration loves to talk about families being separated.  Politicians love to talk about families being separated. Preachers love to talk about families being separated. That is the common mantra when discussing immigration and why they refuse to enforce current law.

“But I want to make sure my fellow citizens are clear about this: the administration and the politicians and the preachers are not talking about the families sitting at the table this morning.  They are not talking about the separation that comes from burying your child.  They are not talking the separation or whatever you told your daughter being the last thing you will ever tell your daughter because she was shot walking beside you on a pier in San Francisco.  Or because she was killed by somebody driving three times the legal rate of impairment.  Separation is a mother living with the reality that her son left for school in the morning and was killed with his body set on fire before nightfall.  That is separation.  That is permanent.  I wish this administration talked more about that kind of separation but primarily I wish this administration did more about it. 

“Just yesterday the lawyer for the President was at it again – this time at the United States Supreme Court arguing for the non-enforcement of the law, arguing for the wholesale failure to enforce the law.   He said this: ‘the damage that would be wreaked by tearing apart families.’  If you want to see that damage, Mr. Solicitor General, if you want to see what tearing apart looks like: I hope you are watching this morning.”

Michelle Root’s testimony on her daughter, Sarah:

“It’s just devastating that the laws we have in place were not carried out. The local law enforcement did their job. They detained him, went to ICE and tried to get a hold on him. ICE refused. I don’t know why that was with everything that happened but he is on the loose now. So our family does not have closure; we probably will never have closure even he is found … Despite all the tragedy, Sarah still is the hero in this story. She was an organ donor.”

Laura Wilkerson’s testimony on her son, Josh:

“My youngest son, Joshua, was a senior in high school and had his whole life ahead of him. He went to school and never returned … I am stunned, shocked, and saddened that we are even having this discussion. When are you going to act on it, when are you going to do something about it?”