The Senate debated the Laken Riley Act yesterday — a month after police found the 22-year-old nursing student beaten to death on a jogging path behind the University of Georgia.

Mike Collins, who represents Riley’s district in the House of Representatives, first introduced H.R. 7511 in the House. The bill would:

  • “Require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain certain non-U.S. nationals (aliens under federal law) who have been arrested for theft, larceny, or shoplifting.”
  • “Authorizes states to sue the federal government for decisions or alleged failures related to immigration enforcement.”

H.R. 7511 purports to fix the systemic failures that allowed Riley’s alleged killer, Jose Ibarra, to remain in the country after entering it illegally.

Immigration and law enforcement could have arrested or deported Ibarra at least three times before police say he murdered Riley.

Ibarra immigrated to the U.S. illegally from Venezuela in 2022, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After a brief detainment, officials released Ibarra into the country to await an immigration hearing.

New York Police arrested Ibarra the next year for endangering a child. Police could have lodged a detainer against him — a process allowing police to transfer custody of an arrested illegal immigrant to ICE for deportation.

Detainers are a useful tool to prevent criminals from reentering society but only work if police choose to use them. ICE explains,

When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.

It’s unclear why NYPD failed to transfer custody of Ibarra to ICE, but it’s worth noting that New York City is a self-declared sanctuary city. While sanctuary policies can vary, the National Conference of State Legislatures loosely defines them as “jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, such as failing to provide information about immigration status and limiting the length of immigration detainers.”

If enacted, the Laken Riley Act would make it riskier for authorities to release people like Jose Ibarra — those who fail to lodge appropriate detainers could face fines and lawsuits if the released offender commits more crimes.

The Laken Riley Act also expands detainers to include citations for theft, larceny and shoplifting. Georgia police cited Ibarra for shoplifting before Riley’s death, and he was wanted for skipping his trial when Riley died.

If H.R. 7551 had been effect when Ibarra allegedly committed his smaller crimes, Riley might still be alive.

Her father, Jason Riley, expressed similar sentiments in front of the Georgia state Senate on Wednesday,

I stand before you, a heartbroken man. Part of my purpose has been taken. God gave me a beautiful daughter to father, protect, provide for, and nurture. A man with an evil heart stole her life. He was in this country and in this state illegally.

Mr. Riley pled for local leaders to prioritize the safety of people like Riley.

Please recognize over a million illegal aliens are in this state and making families nervous. Please recognize Athens-Clarke is a sanctuary city — and this policy and the lack of action led to the murder of my daughter … Hundreds of women and children each month are being smuggled, coerced, and trafficked in our state. They are victims, just like Laken. I thank you for honoring Laken [today], and I humbly ask you to do more to protect us. She and my family mean the world to me.

The bill passed the House on March 7th in a 251-170 vote. It’s unclear whether H.R. 7511 has the bipartisan support necessary to pass in the Senate. The Daily Citizen will keep you updated on its  progress.

Additional Articles and Resource

Debate Over Immigration Labels Obscures Seriousness of Laken Riley’s Death

Illegal Immigrant to Appear in Court for Death of Texas Teen, Illustrates Violent Trend

Talking to Your Kids About Illegal Immigration

Familial DNA Testing on the Southern Border Shouldn’t Have Ended

The Border Crisis and the Deafening Silence of Women’s Groups