Republican North Carolina U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, along with U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, R-AL, introduced a bill Wednesday named for the 22-year-old University of Georgia nursing student who was brutally murdered by an illegal immigrant last month.

The Laken Riley Act would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest illegal aliens who commit theft, burglary, larceny, or shoplifting offenses and would mandate that these aliens are detained until they are removed from the U.S.

The legislation also empowers state attorneys general to sue the Secretary of Homeland Security for taking actions on immigration that harm their states or their citizens.

Jose Ibarra, an illegal immigrant, is alleged to have brutally murdered Riley while she was out for a jog on the university’s campus. Ibarra had been arrested twice before, first in New York for endangering a child and then in Georgia for misdemeanor shoplifting, but was released before a detainer could be issued. 

The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 7, 2024, in a bipartisan vote of 251-70, including 37 Democrats.

Budd, Britt, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and 31 other Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell-KY, co-sponsored the bill.

Source: U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, X page.

“States should be able to protect their citizens from the Biden administration’s lawless, open border policies by seeking relief in federal court,” Budd said in a press release. “That’s why I am joining Senator Britt to introduce the Senate version of the Laken Riley Act. We simply cannot tolerate any more senseless tragedies like this one. What happened to Laken Riley should never happen to any American citizen.”

The bill’s introduction comes on the heels of two bills that Tillis introduced on Tuesday.

The first bill, titled Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, would establish a private right of action for any individual, spouse, parent, or child who is a victim of murder, rape, or any felony (as defined by the state), to bring an action against a state or political subdivision of a state if the entity declined to honor a lawful immigration detainer request for an alien by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition, this legislation would require a state or political subdivision of a state to waive immunity as a condition of receiving certain federal grants.

The second bill, the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act, would clarify DHS detainer authority; clearly establish the authority of states and localities to maintain custody in cases in which a detainer has been issued; and, incentivize cooperation between law enforcement agencies and DHS through the reimbursement of certain detention, technology, and litigation-related costs.

Budd co-sponsored both of these bills, as well.

Until his State of the Union address last week, President Joe Biden had not mentioned Riley’s name or called her family to offer condolences. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gave him a pin with Riley’s name on it before the address and told him to “say her name.” Biden would later mis-name her, calling her “Lincoln Riley” during his speech, the name of a football coach for the University of Southern California.

He would also later apologize for using the word “illegal” in his speech to describe Ibarra and said he should have used the word “undocumented” instead.

Illegal immigration remains a hot topic and the most important issue for voters in most polls, including Carolina Journal’s most recent poll.

As Carolina Journal previously reported, the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s June 2023 estimate shows that, currently, 16.8 million illegal immigrants live in the U.S. The 2023 cost study shows that 488,000 live in the Tar Heel State, along with their 169,000 US-born children.

The costs to support them are staggering. According to FAIR, in 2023, illegal immigration cost North Carolina taxpayers $3.14 billion or $779 per household annually, according to the Census Bureau’s number of households. Also:

  • Illegal immigrant households added 122,218 students to local schools.
  • The average cost to North Carolinians is $4,781 per illegal alien. 
  • Taxpayers are supporting education costs of $1.47 billion, police, legal, and corrections costs of $461.1 million, as well as healthcare, public assistance, and general government services expenses.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) annual report, nearly half of the 170,590 illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S. in 2023 had multiple criminal charges and convictions. 

But inconsistent ICE policies have left the door open for six North Carolina counties to avoid cooperating with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

As an example, according to ICE data obtained by Charlotte’s WBTV news, in 2019, nearly 500 illegal immigrants were released from jails across the state despite administrative detainers filed against them by ICE. They were initially charged with sex offenses, kidnapping, arson, and homicide.

ICE often uses a detainer to keep undocumented immigrants who’ve committed a crime in jail, because removal from the country is a civil action and not a criminal matter.

ICE has repeatedly asked local jurisdictions to reconsider non-cooperation policies enacted in recent years because “those policies put politics before public safety and release criminals back into communities where they are free to reoffend.”

Some sheriffs believe that an ICE detainer is a lawful document issued by a federal agency that allows law enforcement officers to hold people based on the detainer. Sheriffs who are honoring detainers believe they give them lawful authority under federal law. On the flip side, some sheriffs don’t believe they have the authority to hold the person in jail, despite the detainer request, known colloquially as ‘Sanctuary Counties.’ These sheriffs argue that a only federal magistrate or a federal judge can issue an arrest warrant.