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  • Theresa Opeka / Carolina Journal

Senate Dems block Budd’s ‘Laken Riley Act’

On Thursday, Senate Democrats rejected a bill one day after it was introduced by Republican US Sens. Ted Budd-NC and Katie Britt-AL, that was 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.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, the Democrat Whip, blocked the legislation, according to a press release from Budd’s office. 

“I am deeply disturbed in my Democratic colleagues for objecting to a bill that had it been in place, Laken Riley’s life would have been spared,” Budd said on the Senate floor. “The Democrat Party’s commitment to open borders is causing otherwise preventable tragedies to occur again and again and again.”

Budd addressed two counterarguments made by Democrats. The first was that the bill would apply to individuals merely accused of a crime, robbing them of due process.

“Well, the fact that illegal aliens are freely roaming around the country in and of itself is illegal,” he stated. “If they then commit another crime, authorities are well within their rights to detain them.”

Budd said the law the bill would strengthen already requires detention for those who have been involved in various acts such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and other vices, regardless of whether or not they’ve been convicted.

Opponents of this bill, he said, must not have a problem with just this bill, but also with well-established laws on the books.

The second argument that Budd addressed was that the bill would violate the Constitution’s standing requirements to file lawsuits.

He stated that the Supreme Court in the United States v. Texas provided a clear road map for Congress to authorize lawsuits against the executive branch for failing to enforce the law and that the bill follows that road map and upholds the Constitution’s separation of powers clause. 

It also authorizes a state attorney general or other authorized officer to bring a lawsuit against executive branch officials for failure to enforce immigration laws in a manner that harms such states or their residents. Finally, the bill authorizes a federal court to grant appropriate injunction relief. 

“This bill does not prejudge the result of any case or tie a judge’s hands,” Budd said. “The bill simply ensures that states are given their day in court to protect their citizens against harmful, lawless, open border policies of the Biden Administration.”

Jose Ibarra, an illegal immigrant, is alleged to have brutally murdered University of Georgia nursing student Laken 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. 

“I simply don’t believe that another American family needs to experience a tragedy like the one that befell the Riley family, and I’m going to continue to work with my colleague from Alabama, Senator Britt, and all my colleagues to push this legislation until it passes this chamber,” Budd closed. 

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

Budd’s fellow Republican US Sen Thom Tillis introduced two bills related to problems caused by illegal immigration on Tuesday. 

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 for most Americans and the most important issue for voters in most polls, including Carolina Journal’s most recent poll.

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. 

Inconsistent ICE policies have left the door open for six North Carolina counties to avoid cooperating with U.S. 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.

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 only a federal magistrate or a federal judge can issue an arrest warrant. 

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