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Senator says open border has been Biden policy

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on the Biden administration facing criticism for the border crisis after an illegal immigrant was arrested for the murder of a Georgia college student.

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Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University in Athens, Georgia, went for a routine run Thursday morning and crossed paths with an illegal immigrant who police say beat her to death near Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia campus in a “crime of opportunity.”

Critics of the Biden administration’s apparent failures to address a mass influx of illegal immigrants across the southern border say Jose Antonio Ibarra, the suspected killer from Venezuela, shouldn’t have been in the U.S. to begin with.

“Laken Riley’s story is heartbreaking,” said Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who co-sponsored a pair of border security bills and has been floated as a possible vice presidential pick. “It should be a wake-up call to the Biden administration that we cannot continue putting Americans’ lives at risk with their open border policies.”

Former President Trump even vowed to kick off the “largest deportation operation” in history if he’s reelected in November.


Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

Laken Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, was found dead near a lake on the University of Georgia campus on Feb. 22, 2024. (Allyson Phillips/Facebook)

“President Biden has the authority to fix the crisis at the border, and that includes the power to deport illegal immigrants with a record,” Scott said. “While President Biden refuses to act, I’ve championed legislation to resume construction of the border wall, tighten asylum standards, prohibit DHS from using its app to assist illegal immigrants, and provide Border Patrol agents the tools they need.”

In addition to criminals crossing without proper vetting, he said fentanyl is pouring over the border and that known terrorists have been captured after making their way into the country from Mexico.

Ibarra entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 but received what is known as border parole, according to authorities. Immigration officers allowed him to enter the country. He made his way to New York City, where he racked up August charges for allegedly acting in a manner injurious to a child and driving without a license.

On Thursday, UGA police say, he killed Riley with “blunt force trauma” to the head and left her body in the woods near the trail where she had been running.

Police have charged Ibarra with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another, UGA Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark said during a news briefing Friday evening. 


Jose Antonio Ibarra Mugshot

Jose Ibarra was arrested on Friday by the UGA Police Department in connection with Laken Riley’s death. (Clarke County Sheriff’s Office)

His brother, Diego, another illegal immigrant, had three pending charges in Georgia before police charged him Friday with green card fraud when they interviewed him while searching for his brother.

In fiscal 2023, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers arrested 73,822 aliens with criminal histories, according to the government. The group is blamed for more than 290,000 criminal charges and convictions, averaging four per suspect.


Diego Ibarra mugshot Athens Clarke County

Diego Ibarra (Clarke County Sheriff’s Office)

Scott and other high-profile Republicans are pushing for border reforms in a series of bills to crack down on the type of illegal entry and “catch and release” policies that allowed the Ibarra bothers to remain in the U.S. for so long without showing evidence of an asylum claim.

The Secure the Border Act of 2023 and Securing Our Border Act would increase the number of Customs and Border Protection agents and redirect $15 billion in Democrats’ funding for new Internal Revenue Service agents toward border security, respectively. 

In New York City, where Ibarra was released in September, police have described a “wave of migrant crime” and singled out Venezuelan nationals in particular as part of a massive robbery spike in the past year, as well as the violent prison gang Tren de Aragua, which authorities warn is trying to establish strongholds in the U.S.

Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott speaks as Republican presidential candidate and former President Trump looks on during a campaign rally, Jan. 19, 2024, in Concord, New Hampshire. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


Riley was a former UGA student who made the dean’s list at Augusta.

Her friend and former roommate, Bianca Tiller, 21, told Fox News Digital last week that Riley rarely missed her morning workout and had wanted to be a nurse for as long as she’d known her.

“I just want to really say that she was such an amazing person, and I just can’t imagine anybody doing such a terrible thing to her,” she said.

Michael Ruiz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @mikerreports

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