Laken Riley’s murder the ‘direct result’ of immigration laws passed by NYC Democrats: councilman

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The murder of a Georgia nursing student allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant who was previously arrested in New York City is the “direct result” of recent New York City laws that severed ties between the NYPD and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Republican Councilman Joe Borelli argued. 

“It is a direct result of the City Council passing legislation that limits cooperation. If those laws were not enacted, the Department of Corrections would have given ICE the opportunity to issue a detainer against Jose Ibarra,” Borelli told Fox News Digital in a phone interview this week. 

Georgia nursing student Laken Hope Riley, 22, was discovered beaten to death earlier this month after going for a run on the University of Georgia’s campus. The Augusta University student crossed paths with illegal immigrant Jose Antonio Ibarra, according to authorities, and died from blunt force trauma to the head. 

Ibarra, a Venezuelan national, entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 and was granted border “parole,” which allows noncitizens to temporarily enter the country due to an emergency or humanitarian reason, authorities have said. Ibarra soon made his way up to New York City, where he was arrested in August and “charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation,” according to ICE. 

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The NYPD, however, has said it does not have a record of Ibarra’s arrest. 

Typically, when ICE learns an illegal immigrant is arrested on criminal charges, the agency will issue a detainer that requests the local police department hold the suspect until ICE can take over and begin deportation proceedings. 

In Ibarra’s case, ICE said he was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued. 

New York City, however, is a “sanctuary city” with relatively recent laws passed by City Council severing many ties between the NYPD and ICE. 

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“A woman is dead in Georgia because the New York City Council passed local laws barring the NYPD from cooperating with ICE, and as such the suspect was released without any notification to federal law enforcement,” Borelli tweeted this week, accompanied by a list of laws that restricted local cooperation with the immigration agency. 

Under a pair of 2014 laws, the local Department of Corrections and NYPD were restricted from complying with ICE detainers under certain conditions. The DOC, for example, is only allowed to comply with an ICE detainer if it is accompanied by a warrant from a federal judge and if the suspect has been convicted of a violent crime in the last five years. 

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“Our city is not served when New Yorkers with strong ties in the community are afraid to engage with law enforcement because they fear deportation. Today, we send another message to Washington that the time to act has come to provide relief to so many individuals who contribute to our nation’s growth,”  Mayor Bill de Blasio said when the two laws were enacted. 

“I’d like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council for passing this legislation, which further establishes New York City as a leader in immigration reform.”

Similar reforms continued under the de Blasio administration, including in 2017, when the City Council passed a bill prohibiting “City agencies from partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration law.” 

“The de Blasio Administration today announced the issuance of citywide guidance and new NYPD protocols to clarify and institutionalize the City’s policy that it will not voluntarily cooperate with federal immigration enforcement activities, and will only coordinate in limited circumstances, including where there is a public safety risk,” a press release from the de Blasio administration stated of the law at the start of 2018. 

Borelli, who has served on City Council representing portions of Staten Island since 2015, argued “it’s interesting to see people trying to backtrack on the impact that these laws have on the cooperation between ICE and city law enforcement.”

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“But the proof is in the pudding,” he said. 

The New York Republican pointed to comments made by local politicians when the laws were passed, arguing that Democrats wanted to sever communication between local law enforcement and federal authorities when involving illegal immigrants.

“The day we start helping ICE is the day we lose the public trust, which is why this guidance and protocol is so critical,” a former NYC council member said in 2018, when de Blasio announced the prohibition of city agencies partnering with the Department of Homeland Security when related to immigration laws. 

Current New York City Mayor Eric Adams also supported the measure in 2018, when he served as Brooklyn borough president. 

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“It is important for our police officers and City employees to have clear guidance and protocol on how to interact with federal immigration enforcement, especially considering the overaggressive behavior of ICE agents. Public safety for all of our residents must come first,” Adams said, according to the de Blasio-era press release. 

Following Laken Riley’s murder, Adams said this week that he supports altering city laws that would open the doors to New York City officials working with federal authorities on immigration matters involving violent suspects or repeat offenders. 

“I want to go back to the standards of the previous mayors who I believe subscribed to my belief that people who are suspected of committing serious crimes in this city should be held accountable,” Adams told reporters at City Hall Tuesday. 

“We should not be allowing people who are repeatedly committing crimes to remain here, and we cannot collaborate with ICE in the process,” the mayor added. 

Adams has repeatedly spoken out in support of keeping New York City as a sanctuary city, saying illegal immigrants in the Big Apple should not live in fear of receiving city services, such as attending a school, due to their immigration status. 

When asked about Borelli’s comments and the laws passed by City Council under his administration, de Blasio told Fox News Digital in a statement that it’s time for “tougher border policies.” 

“I trust the NYPD, and they say they never encountered the accused individual. But it’s sickening that a young, promising life was cut short. Any way you slice it, we need tougher border policies and comprehensive immigration reform,” de Blasio said. 

The former mayor also pointed Fox Digital to an opinion piece he wrote this month, in which he proposed accepting “Republican demands for greater border security in exchange for full funding of a humane and functioning asylum process,” along with “spending billions to create the facilities necessary on the Mexican side of the border, including the concessions and incentives the Mexican government would require in order to accept this plan.” 

Borelli argued the push by the City Council to sever ties with federal authorities back when de Blasio was in office evolved from Democrats in the city wanting to resist what they saw as a “Trump agenda” on immigration. 

“This was a reaction by the de Blasio administration and the City Council to push back on what they saw as the Trump agenda. And as long as they were doing what they could to oppose Trump, they didn’t care,” he said. 

Borelli said the local legislation is now backfiring as New Yorkers and others question the laws’ logic. 

“It’s completely backfired when people start to question, ‘What is the logic of having people who are here illegally in the first place, and then commit crimes against New Yorkers and others?’ There’s limited rationale for keeping them here, even if you were a progressive who is sympathetic to people coming here in the first place,” Borelli said. 

Laken Riley’s murder has shocked many Americans and heightened outrage about the Biden administration’s border policies. More than 7 million illegal immigrants have flooded the nation since President Biden took office in 2021, a figure larger than the population of 36 individual states, a Fox News Digital analysis previously found. 

Riley was reportedly so badly beaten during the murder that her skull was disfigured, investigators reported in an affidavit. 

“He’s a sick puppy,” Borelli told Fox Digital when asked about the brutal attack. “[He] would not have withstood screening, we hope, if we had a proper system of vetting and deporting people.”

Ibarra is in custody and was charged with the felonies of malice murder, murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another, as well as the misdemeanor of physically hindering a 911 call, according to the affidavit filed Feb. 23. 

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New York State Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced the renaming of legislation that would allow local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE. The legislation will now be known as “Laken’s Law” in memory of Riley. 

“Because of New York law, because of New York sanctuary state laws, local law enforcement do not notify federal immigration officials when they take someone into custody, even if they’re here — especially when they’re here illegally,” Republican New York state Sen. Robert Ortt said at a press conference Wednesday.

“So, Laken Riley’s murderer, albeit an alleged murderer, was in custody, law enforcement custody, and he was released without notification to ICE, to federal authorities, because of policies and laws passed by Democrats here in New York State,” 

Ortt argued that if legislation allowing law enforcement to work with ICE were in place back when Ibarra was arrested by the NYPD, Riley “would be alive today.”

“It’s not an opinion. It’s not what I think. I’m not split. It’s a fact. If this was the law of the State of New York, she’d be alive today. Her family would have a daughter today,” he said. 

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