Kemp demands answers on immigration status of suspect in death of student on UGA campus

Press release from the office of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Atlanta, GA (Feb. 24, 2024) – Governor Brian P. Kemp today issued a letter to President Joe Biden demanding a response to questions surrounding the immigration status of the suspect in the alleged murder of Laken Riley and asylum claims of his brother.

His office noted that this direct request follows a previous call for information made by Kemp and 24 other governors for data and information on illegal border crossings, relocation efforts, and how asylum claims were being processed.

“Laken Riley’s tragic death struck the hearts of Georgians everywhere and has rightfully sparked national outrage,” Kemp said. “As I have said many times before: every state is now a border state because of Joe Biden’s inaction, and today I am again demanding answers and information from the Biden Administration that will help us protect our citizens when the federal government will not.”

University of Georgia Campus Police announced the active homicide investigation after Riley’s body was found near a lake on on the UGA campus Thursday when she failed to return from a run. The arrest of a suspect, of Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, a Venezuelan national, was subsequently identified and arrested and is charged with felony murder, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and concealing the death of another in the killing of Riley.

Information has been forthcoming about charges against Ibarra’s brother on allegedly using a fake green card, but besides noting that he is not a US citizen and is from Venezuela, officials have been hesitant in divulging the suspect’s full immigration status.

Kemp is asking for that information to be made available to his office.

The Governor’s letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

As I have stated many times in the past, your actions and those of your administration have resulted in every state in the country experiencing the disastrous impacts of an unsecured U.S. southern border. More than nine million illegal immigrants have crossed the border since you took office – with an additional, unknown number of migrants who were not detained and processed – while at least 58 people on the terror watchlist have been encountered between ports of entry this fiscal year alone. Moreover, nearly two thousand pounds of fentanyl and five thousand pounds of methamphetamines were seized at the border in just the month of January. In addition to the serious national security implications of this crisis, the increased burden on state and local resources is not only unsustainable, it also presents a clear and present danger to our citizens and communities.

While the dangers of this crisis have never been theoretical, this week our state witnessed a devastating tragedy. Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University and beloved member of the University of Georgia (UGA) community, was found dead near UGA’s East Campus intramural fields on Thursday. After her death had been ruled a homicide, state and local law enforcement coordinated on identifying, locating, and arresting the suspected murderer. This coordinated effort resulted in the arrest of Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan national, on multiple charges including malice murder. It has since been revealed by the United States Department of Justice that the investigation into Laken Riley’s murder also resulted in the arrest of his older brother, Diego Ibarra, on charges of possessing a fraudulent U.S. permanent resident card. Furthermore, despite having been arrested on multiple occasions since September 2023 on charges ranging from driving under the influence to shoplifting, your Department of Justice has confirmed that Diego Ibarra has been released back into the community while his asylum claims are being processed.

This past September 1 joined twenty-four governors in writing you a letter requesting “accurate, detailed, thorough data and information” regarding all illegal border crossings, relocation efforts, and how asylum claims were being processed. This followed another letter from the nation’s governors laying out actions you could carry out today to begin securing the border and restricting the flow of illegal crossings into our country.

Frankly, Mr. President, your continued silence in response to these reasonable requests is outrageous. The American people deserve to know who is illegally entering our country due to your administration’s failures, and what risks and challenges every state must now face. Today, I renew those requests, and additionally request answers to the following questions specifically related to Laken Riley’s murder:

  • Why was my administration not made aware of the asylum claims and subsequent release of an illegal resident who presented fraudulent identification?
  • What is the current immigration status of Jose Antonio Ibarra and why has this information not been relayed to my administration?
  • What additional information does your administration possess regarding these individuals and the circumstances surrounding their entry into the country?

While media reports surrounding this case have relied on sources and leaks from your own federal agencies, the answers to these basic questions must be provided publicly as soon as possible to ensure state and local officials have the information we need in order to keep our communities safe. These tragedies are not unique to Georgia. While we will continue to support Texas with National Guard resources as we have since 2019, federal action to secure the border is the only way to wholistically address this ongoing crisis and ensure Laken Riley’s horrible fate is not replicated across the country. However, if you continue to refuse to exercise your authority as president, your administration must provide the information necessary for Georgia and other states to protect our citizens.

Brian P. Kemp

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