Georgia politicians share their outrage following death of 22-year-old nursing student on UGA campus

ATLANTA — After Friday’s briefing by University of Georgia Police Chief Jeffrey Clark announced the suspect in Laken Riley’s murder was not a U.S. citizen, politicians in Georgia were quick to decry federal immigration policies as contributing to her death.

Speaking forcefully on the matter, Georgia Rep. Mike Collins (R-Athens) said Riley’s death was firmly a responsibility of President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

“The blood of Laken Riley is on the hands of Joe Biden, Alejandro Mayorkas, and the government of Athens-Clarke County. The Venezuelan suspect in Laken Riley’s murder is one of millions of illegal aliens that the Biden administration has released into this country to be welcomed with open arms by Democrat-run sanctuary jurisdictions. This man had no business being in America, much less the UGA community to brutally murder this young American while she was on a run,” Collins said in part.

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He wasn’t alone in blaming border policies and federal directives about immigration for Riley’s murder, which UGA police said was a crime of opportunity, and that Riley and suspect Jose Antonio Ibarra, an undocumented migrant from Venezuela, did not know each other.

Georgia Sen. President Pro Tem John Kennedy took aim at Athens’ status as a sanctuary city, saying that those policies “embolden criminals and endanger Georgians at the expense of the taxpayer. Let me be clear, politicians that put their political agenda over public safety should keep Georgians awake at night. The stakes are too high, and tragedies like this senseless act of violence reaffirm that we cannot tolerate incompetence or willful negligence in our criminal justice system.”

On Saturday morning, Gov. Brian Kemp also criticized the president’s immigration policies due to Riley’s death.

“Laken Riley’s tragic death struck the hearts of Georgians everywhere and has rightfully sparked national outrage,” Kemp said in a statement. “As I have said many times before: every state is now a border state because of Joe Biden’s inaction, and today I am again demanding answers and information from the Biden Administration that will help us protect our citizens when the federal government will not.”


The governor’s office said the statement and call for answers followed another recent request made by Kemp and 24 other governors regarding illegal border crossings, relocation efforts and information on how asylum claims are processed.

On the larger national stage, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) said the president should use his “existing statutory authority and CLOSE THE BORDER!”

Separately, Democrats in the General Assembly pushed back on those calls in part. Jason Esteves, a Georgia state senator, said online that “Laken Riley’s family deserves space to grieve without being used for cheap political points. Those who bring up border security should take that up with Trump, who recently whipped Republicans in DC into shelving a bipartisan border security bill.”

He’s referring to recent news that former president Donald J. Trump, who is also running for reelection against Biden for the 2024 presidential race, had urged Republicans in Washington to vote against a bipartisan effort to address immigration issues.

As previously reported on Channel 2 Action News, Trump and other top Republicans opposed the deal and said it fell short. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called it “dead on arrival” ahead of the vote on Feb. 7.

Afterward, Trump bragged about defeating the Senate’s border proposal, while several Republicans said the deal was bad for their party and for Americans, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

More updated information provided by members of law enforcement confirmed that both Jose Ibarra and his brother Diego were in the United States as undocumented immigrants.

Information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Diego Ibarra “is a citizen of Venezuela and was processed for expedited removal but claimed a credible fear of return to Venezuela. He was consequently released from immigration custody pending adjudication of his claim for asylum on April 30, 2024.”

Diego was arrested for presenting a fake permanent resident card to ACCPD on Friday evening.

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