Laken Riley Murder: What is a sanctuary city and is there one in Georgia?  – WSB-TV Channel 2

Last week, police arrested 26-year-old Jose Ibarra of Venezuela in connection with the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley, who was attacked while running on the infields at UGA.

On Sunday, Immigration Customs Services provided Channel 2 Action News the following statement confirming that Ibarra entered the country illegally:

“US Customs and Border Protection arrested Ibarra on September 8, 2022, after he illegally entered the United States near El Paso, Texas. He was paroled and released for further processing.”

In the state of Georgia, Atlanta, Clayton County, DeKalb County and Athens-Clarke County are considered sanctuary cities.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a sanctuary city is a city or jurisdiction that limits its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts to protect low-priority immigrants from deportation.

While they typically do not arrest immigrants based on ICE requests alone, USCIS says sanctuary cities can still cooperate with federal authorities, for example by notifying them when an immigrant is released from prison or if they have been involved in criminal activity.

In 2009, the state of Georgia voted to ban sanctuary cities; However, at the local level, there were still jurisdictions that allowed sanctuary cities.

Then, in 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an anti-illegal immigration law that would impose prison sentences of up to one year and fines of up to $1,000 for people who knowingly transport illegal immigrants while committing a crime. The law also stated that workers convicted of using fake IDs to seek work in Georgia could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Some of Georgia's sanctuary cities also have specific regulations.

According to USCIS, Atlanta and Clarkston have policies in place that prohibit local law enforcement from questioning anyone about their immigration status and enforcement of federal immigration laws. Both cities provide legal assistance for immigrants and have a municipal task force to support refugees and asylum seekers.


Decatur and Athens-Clarke County have similar policies to Atlanta and Clarkston when it comes to asking someone about their immigration status.

USCIS added that Athens-Clarke County also provides legal assistance to immigrants in need.

In 2018, Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards said the sheriff's office would no longer honor detainees used by ICE.

“The Sheriff values ​​partnerships with law enforcement and respects ICE’s role in keeping our country safe, but believes that further legislative or judicial decisions are needed to honor ICE detainees who are not released by a court order or.” Court order will be supported,” he told Edwards at the time.

It is unclear how authorities will handle Ibarra's immigration status during his trial.

Ibarra is being held without bail in the Athens-Clarke County Jail.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to Athens-Clarke County leaders for comment on their sanctuary city status but did not receive a response.

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