Laken Riley's murder spurs Georgia to take action on sanctuary policies

FAIR take | March 2024

Tragically, it was Laken Riley's murder that reignited a firestorm over shelter-in-place policies, an issue that has gained increasing national media attention since the death of Kate Steinle in 2005. Laken's heartbreaking death reveals a connection between the Biden administration's open borders agenda and state and local sanctuary policies that endanger communities by shielding criminal aliens from deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that Riley's alleged killer, Jose Ibarra, entered the country illegally in 2022, was encountered by Border Patrol and released into the United States on parole. Ibarra then made his way to the sanctuary city of New York (where he was arrested and charged with child endangerment) and was released before he could be apprehended by ICE. Ibarra then made his way to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Although Georgia has been an anti-sanctuary state since 2009, Athens-Clarke County, where the killing occurred, is under sanctuary jurisdiction.

Sanctuary measures provide a safe haven or “sanctuary” where illegal immigrants work and live without fear of arrest by federal immigration authorities. There is no specific type of protected area policy; Some are implemented through local laws, while others are disguised as “welcome resolutions,” and some even appear as internal law enforcement policies. Despite these obvious differences, what they all have in common is that sanctuary policies place a greater emphasis on the well-being of illegal immigrants than on the well-being and safety of citizens and legal residents of their own communities.

In general, sanctuary policies prohibit state or local officials, including law enforcement personnel, from questioning individuals about their immigration status, reporting them to federal immigration authorities, or otherwise cooperating with federal immigration authorities. This practice conflicts with at least two sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act, specifically 8 USC §1373 and 8 USC §1644.

Other sanctuary measures take the form of anti-detention policies that prevent or exclude state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal authorities attempting to remove aliens in their custody for committing other crimes. To deport the alien, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will issue a detainer to the local law enforcement agency, if permitted by federal regulations, and request that the alien be held pending ICE's custody can take over for him/her. However, anti-incarceration policies require that local officials ignore detainees or show them respect only under certain circumstances.

Although Athens-Clarke does not officially call itself a “city of refuge,” it functions as one. In 2019, Mayor Kelly Girtz and the Athens-Clarke County, Georgia Commission passed a “welcome resolution” in support of illegal aliens, describing the county “cannot witness the violation of constitutional rights afforded to all people “. The resolution also highlighted the need for illegal aliens to “feel welcome and comfortable in their interactions with law enforcement and their local government.” Additionally, it said the county would work to repair the harm “caused to black, brown and all other minority communities.”

This resolution was not surprising, considering that as a candidate, Mayor Girtz had signed a statement opposing cooperation with ICE, pointing out that voluntary cooperation would break up families.

In addition to the welcoming resolution, County Sheriff John Q. Williams introduced an anti-detention policy to fulfill his campaign promise not to help ICE deport Athenians. Under this policy, Athens-Clarke County would comply with detention requests only if they are accompanied by a federal warrant or court order signed by a federal judge or magistrate. Sheriff Williams' stance is a de facto sanctuary policy because 8 CFR §287.7(b) gives immigration officials the authority to make a request for detention for the purpose of apprehension and deportation of an alien. An arrest warrant signed by a judge is not required, but is required by some local officials as an excuse for non-cooperation.

Despite Georgia's anti-sanctuary law, Athens-Clarke County has been able to continue to function as a sanctuary jurisdiction since the state law's enforcement mechanism was eliminated in 2019, when the much-criticized Immigration Enforcement Review Board was abolished. This body allowed local officials or even members of the public to report cases in which local jurisdictions were obstructing immigration enforcement. While Rep. Philip Singleton (R-Sharpsburg) introduced sweeping anti-sanctuary legislation (which would have empowered the attorney general to sue local jurisdictions to block sanctuary policies), the bill failed to gain traction.

Unfortunately, Laken's death and the ensuing national media frenzy were the impetus for the passage of a law in Georgia requiring law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and in honorary detainee applications. Under House Bill 1105, introduced by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) and currently under consideration, the township will lose both state and federal (state-administered) funding if a law enforcement agency is found to be violating the law . The bill also requires law enforcement officers to apply for and enter into 287(g) agreements when appropriate.

The proposal passed the Georgia House of Representatives within the transition period, the last day for legislation to pass the first chamber and be sent to the Georgia Senate for consideration.

Laken's death was entirely avoidable because her killer should not have been in the United States. State and local governments should not be able to protect illegal immigrants in their communities by implementing dangerous protections.