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Georgia is cracking down on immigrants even more after the murder of Laken Riley

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Georgia is cracking down on immigrants even more after the murder of Laken Riley

Georgia lawmakers passed a bill Thursday to further tighten the state's already strict immigration laws. Local police are expected to soon be forced to check the immigration status of people in their custody and report undocumented suspects to federal authorities.

The new legislation follows the February campus murder of Laken Riley at the University of Georgia, a gruesome crime allegedly committed randomly by an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela.

The 22-year-old's killing has left a significant impact on Georgia lawmaking, highlighted by Thursday's passage of the measure in the final hours of the legislative session. It also made national headlines, as discussion of Riley's death, as well as President Joe Biden's mispronunciation of her name and use of the word “illegal” to describe her alleged killer, was arguably the most discussed part of his State of the Union address.

Georgia's new law must be signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who has regularly attacked Biden's border policies, before it takes effect. He has given no indication that he would veto the bill.

If signed into law, law enforcement in Georgia would be required to ask questions about the immigration status of each of their detainees, even if a suspect faces only misdemeanor charges. If these suspects indicate that they are undocumented or do not provide documents, police must alert U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The law also requires departments to regularly provide federal immigration authorities with data on how many arrests they have reported. Agencies found not complying with the new requirements could lose state and federal funding, the bill says.

Some sheriffs in Georgia expressed concerns that the new law would add additional responsibilities to already understaffed departments, but many fully supported the bill, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The bill passed the Georgia House of Representatives by a vote of 99-75, largely along party lines.

After Riley's death, Republicans in Georgia have called for tougher punishments for migrants, claiming harsher punishment could have saved Riley's life. Because her alleged murderer, Jose Antonio Ibarra, was arrested by the Border Patrol for illegally entering the United States in 2022 and was arrested twice more during his stay in the United States. The first arrest came in New York for allegedly driving a scooter without a license with a child on board without a helmet, and his second came for alleged shoplifting in Georgia. Under Georgia's new law, police would have been required to alert ICE to similar arrests in the state before he could be released.

A bill named after Riley passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. Thirty-seven Democrats supported the measure, which would require all migrants stopped by the Border Patrol to be taken into custody. However, this bill is not expected to reach Biden's desk because Democrats hold a majority in the Senate and critics have accused politicians of exploiting a tragedy. One of those critics is Riley's father, who said earlier this month that he was “angry” that her death was being used politically.

In Georgia, supporters of the state law said it was just “common sense” to involve ICE in every arrest of an undocumented person.

“I think this is really a sensible measure,” Republican Houston Gaines, whose district includes the University of Georgia, told the New York Times. “What we are talking about is people who are in the country illegally and have committed crimes, further crimes and ensuring that those people are held accountable.”