Republican senators urge passage of Laken Riley Act

(NewsNation) — A group of Republican Senators urged lawmakers to pass the Laken Riley Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to detain immigrants in the country illegally for crimes like theft, as part of an upcoming funding bill.

The legislation already passed the House, where it was sponsored by Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga. The bill requires anyone who is arrested for theft, burglary or similar crimes and who is not legally in the country be detained by DHS. It would also allow state attorneys general to sue federal officials for failing to enforce immigration policies.

The group blamed Riley’s death on the Biden administration’s immigration policies, accusing the president and Democrats of not caring about the safety of Americans.

Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., said the act deserves an up and down vote on the Senate floor.

“The American people deserve to know who stands on the side of preventing tragedies,” he said.

The senators also accused President Joe Biden of failing to take action on the border, saying the president has all the tools needed to address the crisis. The White House has disputed this argument, saying it’s Congress that needs to take action. The administration has specifically pointed to the collapse of a border compromise after former President Donald Trump urged Republicans to reject the bipartisan deal.

The bill is named for nursing student Laken Riley, who was killed while running on a trail on the University of Georgia at Athens campus. The suspect in Riley’s death is Jose Ibarra, an immigrant from Venezuela who crossed into the U.S. illegally.

Ibarra had previously been arrested for other minor crimes, including shoplifting. After Riley’s death, Republicans began blaming the Biden administration’s immigration policies for her death and calling for a review of Ibarra’s DHS records.

Riley’s death has also sparked a conversation about migrant crime, although statistics show immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens.

In the press conference. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused President Joe Biden of releasing murderers from jail. While Ibarra did have an arrest record in the U.S., he had not faced any arrests or charges for homicide or similar violent crimes. He was previously arrested for “acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation” in New York and shoplifting in Georgia. It is not clear if Ibarra had any criminal record in Venezuela.

A Georgia sheriff told NewsNation that when people detained for misdemeanor crimes are found to be undocumented, immigration officials will rarely bother to pick them up and the jails are required to release them within 48 hours under state law.

The bill passed in the House with largely Republican support and 170 Democrats opposing it. One objection from opponents was the requirement of detaining people who had been arrested but not charged or convicted with a crime.

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