GA House Panel Advances Bill Despite Athens Mayor Heckling

( – The Georgia state House on Thursday passed legislation to beef up cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE in the wake of the brutal murder of nursing student Laken Riley by an illegal alien in Athens last month, the Associated Press reported.

While sanctuary cities and counties are already prohibited in Georgia, the new legislation, introduced by Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, would impose penalties on police, county sheriffs, and jails if they fail to cooperate with ICE when an illegal alien is arrested.

Authorities in Athens and Clarke County have said that they run criminal records checks on people in custody and if they have outstanding warrants, they will be detained. However, they do not jail illegal aliens unless they have a criminal history.

Under the legislation, which passed the state House in a 97-74 vote, police departments and sheriff’s offices must identify and arrest illegal aliens and detain them until ICE can take them into custody.

The legislation will now move to the state Senate for a vote.

Petrea initially introduced the bill in January but it gained renewed interest after Venezuelan illegal alien Jose Antonio Ibarra was charged with Riley’s murder.

The 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student had gone out for a run on the morning of February 22. When she failed to return, a friend contacted the Athens police who later discovered her badly beaten body in a wooded area near the University of Georgia – Athens campus.

Ibarra was taken into custody the following day and faces multiple charges, including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, and kidnapping.

According to ICE, Ibarra crossed the border near El Paso, Texas in September 2022 where he was apprehended by Border Patrol and paroled pending processing. Ibarra ended up in New York City where he was arrested by NYPD in September 2023 but released before ICE could issue a detainer. He eventually found his way to Athens, Georgia.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Athens mayor Kelly Girtz attempted to defend the city’s policy of limited cooperation with federal immigration authorities but his remarks were disrupted by angry residents calling for the mayor’s resignation.

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