Georgia legislature introduces Laken Riley Act after her death

The brutal murder of a nursing student in Georgia less than two weeks ago is sparking a call for change. Today, a Republican congressman from Georgia introduced the Laken Riley Act, a bill that would impose stricter laws against immigrants living in the country illegally who face theft charges. The move comes after a Venezuelan migrant was charged with the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley.

Republicans accused the White House of an immigration policy that allows dangerous criminals to enter the United States and roam its streets, citing the death of 22-year-old Laken Riley as an example. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern hit back, accusing Republicans of using the killing to score political points and promote a terrible tragedy.

If passed, the Laken-Riley Act would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to mobilize and detain individuals living in the United States illegally who commit or admit to theft, burglary, or shoplifting. The bill would also open the federal government to lawsuits from states and residents if the government fails to enforce immigration laws.

On February 22, Laken Riley's body was found in a wooded area on the University of Georgia campus. According to authorities, the suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan immigrant, faces multiple charges, including murder. He was arrested back in October for stealing food and clothing from Walmart.

Georgia Republican Rep. Mike Collins introduced the bill, adding that Riley's family supports its efforts.

Scripps News' Adi Guajardo spoke with an immigration attorney who called the bill a knee-jerk reaction and added that Ibarra was not convicted of Riley's murder.

“It's literally a representation of the Jim Crow past that we survived over 70 years ago, and they've resurrected it in our public discourse today, where even an accusation that leads to someone's arrest could result in that she loses her civil liberties and her possible entitlement to relief in the future,” said attorney Casey Antonio Williams.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives as early as Thursday.

READ MORE: Court documents reveal new details in the murder of a Georgia nursing student

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