U.S. House approves immigration bill linked to murder of Georgia college student • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

WASHINGTON — Just hours before President Joe Biden's State of the Union address, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Laken Riley Act, named after a Georgia college student whose murder was blamed by conservatives on White House immigration policies.

In the 251-170 vote, 37 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bill. These included Pennsylvania Reps. Matt Cartwright, Chris Deluzio and Susan Wild.

Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University, was reported missing by her roommate when she failed to return home after a run on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. Local police found her body and soon after arrested a 26-year-old man from Venezuela for her murder – an immigrant who had previously been arrested in Georgia for shoplifting.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 26-year-old Jose Ibarra is believed to have entered the country illegally in 2022.

The nine-page messaging bill, H.R. 7511, is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority.

It would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to arrest immigrants accused of local theft, burglary or shoplifting. It would also give states the authority to file civil lawsuits against the federal government for “failure to enforce immigration law,” Oklahoma House Speaker Tom Cole said during a revision of the bill Tuesday.

“Together, these agencies will ensure that what happened to Laken Riley will not happen to anyone else in the future,” said Cole, a Republican.

Republicans have set debate and passage of the legislation for the same day that Biden, who will face former President Donald Trump in November in a re-election campaign already heavily focused on immigration, will address the nation.

Georgia legislature

In the wake of Riley's death, Georgia state lawmakers are introducing a bill that would penalize law enforcement agencies that fail to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of an arrest when an undocumented immigrant is in custody and without Approval resides in the USA.

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, a Georgia Republican who represents Athens District, wrote on “

“Therefore, the seat reserved for my guest remains vacant to honor Laken and all American victims of illegal alien crime,” he said.

During Thursday's debate in the U.S. House of Representatives, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, accused Republicans of “exploiting her death” and “demonizing immigrants.”

Republicans like Dan Bishop of North Carolina argued that the bill was necessary so that there would be no “other victims of the Biden border crisis.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable to allow this criminal to roam freely in our communities,” Georgia Republican Rep. Rick Allen said on the House floor Thursday.

Democratic Rep. Glenn Ivey of Maryland argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled last year that the Biden administration had the authority to set its deportation policy.

“DHS cannot detain everyone, so the executive branch, not the states, must make decisions,” Ivey said. “This bill would not give DHS the resources to change that.”

House GOP Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana said during a GOP news conference Wednesday that Republicans planned to vote on the bill before the State of the Union to punish the Biden administration for its handling of immigration at the southern border to critisize.

“A crisis that has had a devastating impact on families like Laken Riley’s,” Scalise said.

Democrats rejected the bill and accused Republicans of politicizing the murder of a young woman.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said what happened to Riley was a tragedy and that his own daughter was 22, the same age as Riley when she was killed in late February.

“I am appalled that we have people in Congress and on this committee who are using such a terrible crime to score political points,” McGovern said. “We are here because you want to try to stave off this terrible tragedy.”

House Republicans have repeatedly clashed with the White House on immigration issues, such as passing party-line HR 2, a bill that would reinstate Trump-era immigration policies, and forgoing bipartisan agreement in the Senate to grant the President executive action on the southern border.

Most recently, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted in early February to remove US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from office.