The murder of a Georgia college student sparks debate over illegal immigration

by Dave Williams

ATLANTA (AP) — State Senate Republicans attacked President Joe Biden on Monday for failing to enforce the nation's immigration laws following the murder of an Augusta University nursing student on the University of Georgia campus.

Jose Ibarra, a 26-year-old Venezuelan who is in the country illegally, was arrested and charged with the murder last Friday of Laken Riley, who was killed while jogging at a lake near UGA's intramural fields.

“If this criminal had not been illegally in Athens, Georgia, Laken Riley would still be with us today,” Sen. Shelley Echols, R-Gainesville, told her Senate colleagues Monday. Echols has a daughter who is a sophomore at UGA.

Ibarra was arrested last September for child endangerment but was released.

“This could have been prevented,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who represents the Riley family in the Senate.

Senate Democrats objected to Republicans using a violent crime allegedly committed by an illegal immigrant to demonize all the millions of people who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, D-Duluth, said statistics show immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.

“Immigrants are not members of a violent invading horde,” she said. “We must not succumb to tribalism and bigotry.”

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, accused former President Donald Trump of blocking bipartisan reform legislation that the U.S. Senate passed earlier this month for political reasons.

But Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, accused Biden of failing to enforce existing illegal immigration laws.

“On his first day in office, he loosened immigration laws in this country,” Dolezal said.

Monday's Senate debate on illegal immigration came after Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, responded to the killing in Athens over the weekend by criticizing the Biden administration for failing to enforce the laws .

“The tragic death of Laken Riley touched the hearts of Georgians everywhere and rightly sparked nationwide outrage,” Kemp said.

“As I have said many times: Because of Joe Biden's inaction, every state is now a border state, and today I am once again demanding answers and information from the Biden administration that will help us protect our citizens when the federal government fails to do so .”