Republicans cite the death of a Georgia student and push for tough immigration policies

Republicans at the state and national levels are pointing to the death of a woman on the University of Georgia campus to call for tougher immigration tactics in the wake of an undocumented immigrant was charged with the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan who was previously arrested by federal authorities after crossing the border into the United States, was arrested last week in connection with the killing of Riley, an Augusta University College of Nursing student. Republicans blame President Joe Biden's policies for their deaths.

Former President Donald Trump quoted Ibarra and Riley on Truth Social on Monday, saying he would “immediately close the border” when he returns to office.

“The monster who took his own life entered our country illegally in 2022… and then was released AGAIN by radical Democrats in New York after hurting a CHILD!!” Trump said. “If I am your president, we will immediately seal the border, stop the invasion, and begin the largest deportation operation of illegal criminals in American history on day one!”

Ibarra, who lived in Athens, where the University of Georgia is based, was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on September 8, 2022, after entering the United States. According to the immigration authorities, he was released on parole and released for further processing customs control.

Laken Riley, left, with Bianca Tiller, her former roommate during her freshman year at the University of Georgia.Courtesy of Bianca Tiller

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, also used Riley's death to criticize the Biden administration.

“It is outrageous that we still have no idea who is entering this country illegally and where they are being released,” Kemp said Sunday on X. “Americans have a right to this information, and I demand the Biden administration “Stop making them available to us.” Don't lose any more innocent lives like Laken Riley's.”

Riley's body was found Thursday after a friend reported her missing when she failed to return from a jog that morning in an area of ​​the University of Georgia campus with wooded paths.

According to ICE, New York police arrested Ibarra, 26, about a year after federal authorities caught him at the border. At the time, he was charged with injury to a child under 17 and a driving license violation. Ibarra was released before ICE could take him into custody, the agency said.

Over the weekend, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., drew attention to Laken's death in a post on X in which he called on Biden to “close the border.”

“The brutal murderer who took Laken’s life was one of the millions of illegal aliens the Biden administration simply released and unleashed on our country,” Johnson said.


In a statement, a White House spokesman said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley. People should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law if found guilty. “Because this is an active case, we would need to refer you to state law enforcement and ICE.”

Johnson's comments came after he criticized a recent bipartisan bill that would have provided emergency powers that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to close the border if migration statistics met certain parameters.

Trump was the driving force behind torpedoing the bill as he urged Republicans to vote against it. Senate Republicans ultimately blocked the bill, saying the measure, which would have resulted in the most aggressive border legislation in decades, did not go far enough.

Biden, who criticized Trump's attempts to kill the bill, argued that Trump, his likely opponent in November, “would rather weaponize this problem than actually solve it.” Trump has claimed on social media that the border law is a “trap for Republicans to take the blame” because the border came about “just in time” before the election.

Both Biden and Trump will visit the US-Mexico border on Thursday. Biden will discuss “the urgent need to pass the Senate's bipartisan border security agreement, the toughest and fairest reform package to secure the border in decades,” the White House said.

A significant majority of Americans view immigration as an important electoral issue. Eighty-four percent of respondents to a national survey conducted by Monmouth University this month said illegal immigration was a serious problem.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has urged Democrats to go on the offensive on border issues, arguing that House Democratic nominee Tom Suozzi's victory in a special congressional election in New York this month “as could serve as a roadmap for the Democrats.” ” in November.

“Suozzi has been aggressively vocal on the issue, running ads highlighting his support for a secure border and legal pathways to citizenship,” Murphy wrote in a Feb. 14 memo to Democrats over their opposition to the bipartisan border bill serious about border security and turned what could have been a devastating political liability into an advantage.”

Julia Ainsley contributed.