House GOP Ignores Data, Passes Anti-Immigrant Bill After UGA Murder

Tom Williams/Getty Images
Tom Williams/Getty Images

The Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill requiring law enforcement to detain migrants who commit petty crime. The bill was named after Laken Riley, a Georgia nursing student who was slain on a running trail last month, and whose chief murder suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

The move is Republicans’ latest attempt to turn Riley’s murder into an immigration flashpoint. The 22-year-old college senior was killed in broad daylight while jogging on the University of Georgia’s campus, and Jose Ibarra, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant, is charged with her murder.

The bill targets migrants who commit “burglary, theft, larceny, or shoplifting,” for which Ibarra was issued a citation months before Riley’s murder. Speaker Mike Johnson said the bill was in honor of all those who have “been victimized by those whom the Biden administration has released into our country.”

But there is little data to suggest that illegal immigration is connected to increased violent crime. In fact, the data show the opposite: a 2020 study released by the Department of Justice revealed U.S. citizens were more than twice as likely to commit violent crime than undocumented immigrants were. Other studies have reported similar findings.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler slammed House Republicans for exploiting Riley’s death as a political stunt that attempted to label all immigrants as vicious and criminal based on the actions of one man.

“Rather than approaching this tragic event in a thoughtful manner, Republicans appear to have just thrown together language from existing, unrelated bills that target and scapegoat immigrants to score cheap political points in an election year while doing nothing to address the situation at the border,” Nadler said on the House floor.

“Instead of coming together to express our sorrow for Laken’s tragic loss, the majority appears to be exploiting her death for yet another partisan, political stunt.”

On Wednesday, Riley’s parents declined a far-right rep’s invitation to join him at the state of the union address. In a previous statement, they asked for privacy while they mourn.

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