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GA Murder Suspect from Venezuela Enflames Immigration Controversy

When a 26-year-old migrant from Venezuela was charged on Friday with kidnapping and murdering a nursing student, Laken Riley, it transformed Athens, Ga., and Clarke County, a community of about 130,000 people some 70 miles east of Atlanta, into the latest flashpoint in the political fight over American immigration policy, the New York Times reports. In a social media post on Monday, former President Donald J. Trump called the suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, a “monster,” and blamed President Biden for an “invasion” that is “killing our citizens.” Earlier in the day, at an event at the university, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp decried “an unwillingness by this White House to secure the southern border.” A third Republican, Representative Mike Collins, who represents Athens, wrote on social media: “The blood of Laken Riley is on the hands of Joe Biden, Alejandro Mayorkas and the government of Athens-Clarke County,” referring to the unified city-county government.


Such statements have struck many liberals as demagogic rhetoric piled atop a horrific crime. In an interview on Sunday, Kelly Girtz, the Democratic mayor of Athens-Clarke County, said that the conversation should be focused on mourning the victim, and blaming an individual rather than a group. “This murder was a violent, heinous act,” he said, “and it rests squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator.” The relatively liberal culture of Athens, its local immigration policies, and the border crisis have combined with a brutal crime to create a toxic brew at Georgia’s flagship university, where student politics runs the gamut. Outside the student center, Ella Jackson, 19, a freshman from Milton, Ga., said she did not feel unsafe or worried. But she took issue with the local government’s policy on undocumented immigrants. “I don’t really think it’s our job to house the illegal immigrants, and especially so close to a college campus.” On average, immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born U.S. citizens, data show, but Republican leaders have been galvanized by record numbers of illegal border crossings since Biden took office in 2021, the Washington Post reported.

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