After U. of Georgia Killing, Lawmakers Seek Tougher Immigration Laws

Republican lawmakers in Georgia are pushing to toughen state laws that govern detentions of undocumented migrants after a killing at a college campus sent shock waves through the state.

Last Thursday, the body of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old woman, was found in a wooded area on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens. According to the authorities, the man charged in her killing, Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, is a migrant from Venezuela who crossed the Southern border in September 2022.

Officials said that Mr. Ibarra and Ms. Riley did not know each other before the encounter that ended in Ms. Riley’s death.

As an outpouring of grief ensued in Athens, immigration policies in Georgia have come under renewed scrutiny, with Republican lawmakers looking to exercise more state power over local law enforcement agencies. Mayor Kelly Girtz of Athens-Clarke County has faced criticism from conservatives for his welcoming stance toward migrants, and a bill in the State House that would harden Georgia’s existing laws on immigration has gained new momentum.

After crossing the border, Mr. Ibarra was arrested by the Border Patrol before being released with temporary permission to stay in the country. Since then, he has had a few run-ins with law enforcement. Last August, he was briefly arrested in New York City for driving a scooter without a license and with a child who was not wearing a helmet, according to an official there. Mr. Ibarra was also arrested in Georgia in October, the Athens-Clarke County Police said, in connection with a shoplifting case.

Under current state laws, law enforcement officials are encouraged to notify immigration authorities when they detain someone who is not a legal resident of the United States.

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