Georgia college student’s killing reignites debate over immigration reform

WASHINGTON D.C. — The murder of a Georgia college student last month is reigniting a debate over immigration reform on Capitol Hill.


22-year-old Laken Riley was attacked and killed near the University of Georgia campus where she went for a jog in February.

Riley was a nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus.

Police identified the suspect as 26-year-old Jose Ibarra, an undocumented migrant from Venezuela.

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Officials said Ibarra had previously been arrested in the U.S. for driving without a license and endangering a child, and was later cited for shoplifting.

“In the first place, the guy should have never been in the country,” Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) told our Washington News Bureau.

Collins is now leading a proposal named after Riley in the House.

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“It reduces the threshold of when to contact ICE when something happens,” said Collins about the new measure.

According to Collins, the Laken Riley Act does three key things: it allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented immigrants for theft-related crimes like shoplifting; it allows State Attorneys General to sue the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failed immigration policies; and it condemns the Biden administration’s border policies.

“The people that have come into this country illegally, they did it illegally. They don’t care about our laws,” said Collins. “We need to pick them up and deport them.”

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But the measure is facing backlash from immigrants’ rights groups.

“These are not meaningful legislative attempts to create safer communities and better lives for all Americans,” said Suchi Mathur, a Senior Litigation Attorney with the American Immigration Council. “What is certainly not helpful is politicians who engage in scapegoating without meaningful solutions.”

Mathur argues the focus should instead be on improving safety and resources for migrant families.

“There’s a lot of empirical evidence that as a group, immigrants and new arrivals commit crimes at much lower rates than other Americans,” said Mathur. “We all live in mixed communities and diverse communities. We all love and appreciate our neighbors for who they are, and communities need support.”

Collins said he expects the bill to be voted on in a House committee Tuesday and could go to the full House floor for a vote as soon as Thursday.

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