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The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Laken Riley Act, which would require federal immigration authorities to detain illegal immigrants charged with local theft or burglary, after a migrant accused of similar offenses was arrested for the murder of an American college student. 

The act, which was passed by a 251-170 vote, is named after 22-year-old Laken Riley, a college nursing student who was recently killed on the campus of the University of Georgia. 

"Praise God! #SayHerName LAKEN HOPE RILEY BILL - PASSED," Allyson Phillips, Riley's mother, posted on Facebook. 

Jose Antonio Ibarra, the illegal immigrant from Venezuela charged with the brutal murder, was arrested in New York prior to the murder, but was not detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"The senseless murder of Laken Riley by Jose Ibarra, who had no business being in this country, was another wake-up call as Americans experience an illegal alien crime wave because of Joe Biden's open border and local sanctuary city policies," Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., who introduced the bill, told Fox News Digital earlier this week. 


Laken Riley smiles wearing a brown top

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student, was found dead near a lake on the University of Georgia campus on Feb. 22. An illegal immigrant has been charged with her murder. (Laken Riley/Facebook)

After the bill's passage in the House, Collins urged the Senate to take up the legislation immediately to "ensure justice for Laken and give ICE more tools to detain and deport criminal illegal aliens before they commit more serious crimes."

During the vote, all Republicans in attendance voted yes. All 170 no votes were Democrats. However, 37 Democrats joined Republicans to advance the bill.

"Democrats don’t care about your safety!" the House Judiciary GOP posted on X shortly after the vote. "Will @chuckschumer allow a vote on the Laken Riley Act in the Senate? Would @JoeBiden veto it?"

During the debate, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D- N.Y., sharply criticized the bill, accusing Republicans of demonizing immigrants and calling it a "rinse and repeat" of the GOP's attempt to keep immigration issues in the news cycle. 

"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 border," he said on the House floor.

Before being charged with felony murder, Ibarra was once arrested in New York for endangering a child, and he was cited in Georgia for misdemeanor shoplifting in October 2023 along with his brother, Diego Ibarra, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  

Collins, who represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional District of Athens – where the fatal attack happened on Feb. 22 – said the murder of Riley is a "wake-up call" for America and the bill seeks to combat the "illegal crime wave" that he attributes to the ongoing border crisis. 


Jose Antonio Ibarra Mugshot

Jose Ibarra was arrested on Feb. 23 in connection with Laken Riley's Feb. 22 murder in Athens, Georgia. (Clarke County Sheriff's Office)

In addition to requiring ICE to issue a detainer for illegal aliens charged with theft or burglary, the bill will also allow individual states to take action against the federal government "if an immigration related action harms the state or its citizens." 

"Allow states to sue the federal government for injunctive relief if an immigration related action (parole, violation of detention requirements, etc.), harms the state or its citizens. This gives states legal recourse to force the federal government to address certain failures related to border security," a press release announcing the legislation read. 

During debate on the bill Thursday in Washington, the House Judiciary Committee ranking member Nadler, argued: "Unfortunately, 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." 

"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," he added. "This approach is fundamentally unserious." 

Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

Riley was a nursing student at Augusta University in Athens, Georgia. (Allyson Phillips/Facebook)

Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican from New York, said, "Laken Riley's future was taken away from her and she from her family because an illegal immigrant in the state of New York was arrested and released – my home state.

"My colleague across the aisle knows this full well because of policies put in place by this administration, embraced by governors like Kathy Hochul in states like New York," he added. "We have surrendered our southern border and made our communities less safe."

Following Thursday's vote, House Speaker Mike Johnson was frank in his criticism of his Democratic colleagues. 


"170 House Democrats just voted against the Laken Riley Act, refusing to require the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants who have been caught committing a crime," he wrote on X. "Sadly, if these Democrats have their way, there will be more victims like Laken Riley."

Collins said he invited Riley's parents to President Biden's State of the Union Speech on Thursday but they declined, choosing instead to grieve the loss of their daughter at home. 

"Therefore, the seat reserved for my guest will remain vacant to honor Laken and all American victims of illegal alien crime," he posted on social media Wednesday.