Senators Push Bipartisan ‘Laken Riley Act’

( – The murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley has spurred a movement across the country to pass a new immigration law. A Venezuelan immigrant, who illegally entered the US in 2022, is accused of killing the student. A coalition of 26 states and US senators is now trying to push the Senate to pass the Laken Riley Act.

The Crime

On February 22, a friend reported Riley missing. The caller told the police that the Augusta University nursing student had gone running near the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Intramural Fields earlier that day but had not returned. Law enforcement began searching for her and discovered Riley’s body in Oconee Forest Park behind Lake Herrick.

The Athens-Clarke County Coroner revealed the student died by blunt force trauma. Police haven’t revealed what kind of weapon was used to cause her death.

UGA police arrested 26-year-old Jose Ibarra and charged him with false imprisonment, felony murder, kidnapping, and other crimes. Prior to Riley’s murder, the suspect had reportedly been arrested and released twice. At least one of the arrests was for shoplifting at a Walmart.

Laken Riley Act

On March 7, the House of Representatives passed the Laken Riley Act by a vote of 251-170. The legislation would require US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest undocumented immigrants who are accused of burglary, larceny, theft, or shoplifting. The bill also orders the federal agency to detain immigrants who have allegedly committed a crime until they can be deported so that they are not able to re-offend.

The legislation would also allow states to sue federal government officials who they believe have violated the law or refused to enforce immigration laws.

Republican Senators Tim Scott (SC), Ted Budd (NC), and Katie Britt (AL) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Scott said Riley’s murder was “an absolute failure by the Biden administration.” He accused the president of refusing to protect the United States by allowing migrants who have committed crimes “to roam free on our streets” across the country.

The attorneys general of Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia wrote a letter to Senate leadership encouraging them to pass the bill. At least 23 other attorneys general signed on in support of the legislation.

In the letter, the states’ top prosecutors called Riley’s death, which occurred in broad daylight, a “tragic and avoidable murder.” They went on to explain the horrific details of the student’s death, saying her skull was beaten so badly that it was disfigured. The attorneys general called on the senators to pass the bill.

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