The House of Representatives passes an immigration bill named after a murdered Georgia student

The House of Representatives passed a measure on Thursday that would require the detention of any migrants who commit theft or burglary. The bill, which passed with the support of every House Republican present and 37 Democrats, is named after nursing student Laken Riley, who was found dead after a run in Athens, Georgia, last month.

Police believe 22-year-old Riley was killed by Jose Ibarra, a man who immigration authorities say crossed the U.S. border illegally in 2022. According to police, Riley suffered blunt force trauma to the head. Ibarra, who immigrated from Venezuela, was arrested last month on murder and assault charges.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ibarra was released by border officials pending review of his immigration case after he was arrested by Customs and Border Protection in 2022. He was arrested almost a year later, on August 31, 2023, after New York police charged him with injury to a minor and a driver's license violation.

Following news of Riley's death, House Republicans — led by Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) — introduced the nine-page Laken Riley Act. It came hours before President Biden's State of the Union address and amid Republican criticism of the administration's handling of the border. House Republicans have long blamed Biden for a surge in border crossings and complained that his administration, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, is failing to properly secure the border, even though the GOP conference blocked a bipartisan Senate effort last month to deal with border security.

The Riley Act passed 251-170. Although it had the support of some Democrats, the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate. Rather, it is more of a political communication tool for Republicans who want to draw attention to the issue of immigration.

In a post posted on In a separate statement, his office said the bill also calls on Biden to reinstate “Remain in Mexico,” a pandemic-era measure that forced migrants to stay in Mexico or their country of origin remain until a decision has been made on their asylum application.

The measure, Collins' office explained, would also change federal law to require ICE to detain and detain undocumented immigrants who commit theft crimes, including shoplifting. The bill would allow state attorneys general to sue the secretary of Homeland Security if immigration policies like parole harm a state or its citizens.

“Please help us secure justice for Laken and give ICE more tools to arrest and deport criminal illegal aliens before they commit even more serious crimes,” Collins said on X.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who has long condemned the Biden administration's immigration policies but has refused to pass bipartisan legislation to address the border, said in a statement that Riley “would still be alive “If the Biden administration had done this, it’s his job.”

“House Republicans will not sit quietly and watch the president and his administration release dangerous criminals into our communities,” Johnson said. “The Laken Riley Act would help prevent future tragedies. If Senator [Charles E.] Schumer and President Biden value protecting Americans and are serious about securing the border. They will bring this bill to a vote and put it into effect immediately.”

And while Republicans — including the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump — have used Riley's death as evidence to argue that the influx of migrants at the border is making the United States unsafe, violent crime rates have remained strong during the Biden administration decreased, and that is the case. There is little evidence that immigrants cause more crime.

“Many politicians, law enforcement officials and ordinary citizens are still outraged that this person should not have been in the country and therefore not able to commit a crime,” said Michael Light, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. who has published several studies showing that undocumented immigrants are no more vulnerable to crime than native-born Americans, the Washington Post explained last month. “This view that the status of the undocumented person is an aggravating factor is also likely a reason why these crimes provoke such strong reactions.”

Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.