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State officials lash out after learning student's accused killer entered U.S. illegally, was released on parole

U.S. immigration officials said the Venezuelan national was previously released by New York authorities on parole

Laken Riley
Laken Riley | Facebook

February 26, 2024 10:04am

Updated: February 26, 2024 10:04am

The suspect currently under investigation for the murder of a Augusta University nursing student entered the U.S. illegally from Venezuela and was released by New York authorities after a prior arrest, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The investigation arises from the murder of Laken Riley, 22, who was killed near the Augusta University campus in Athens, Georgia on Friday.

ICE officials confirmed Sunday that the 26-year-old Venezuelan man who is now the focus of law enforcement officials in the tragic killing, was previously released twice, once on parole in 2022 by U.S. immigration officials, and again, after he was arrested a year later in 2023 in New York City.

Jose Ibarra, 26, was arrested by Customs and Border Protection agents on Sept. 8, 2022, after he unlawfully entered the U.S. near El Paso, Texas, but was “paroled and released for further processing,” ICE said. 

Ibarra was detained again a year later, on Sept. 14, 2023, by the NYPD and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child under 17 and a motor vehicle license violation, according to the official statement released by ICE.

U.S. officials said the Venezuelan national was released in New York City before an ICE detainer was issued.  New York’s self-avowed status as a sanctuary city sometimes complicates the process for local police to uphold ICE detainers.

Since the Biden administration came to power in 2021, more than 7.2 million migrants have entered the U.S. through the U.S. southwest border. As a result of the continuing crisis, Biden is now considering using the Immigration and Nationality Act  which gives a U.S. president power to to shut the border down if more than 8,500 try to cross in one day.

Georgia officials lashed out after learning about the details of the suspect, placing blame for the young lady’s death on loose immigration policies.

“Laken Riley’s tragic death struck the hearts of Georgians everywhere and has rightfully sparked national outrage,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement. “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.”

The governor wasn’t alone in attributing Riley’s death to the Biden administration’s border policies.

“The blood of Laken Riley is on the hands of Joe Biden, Alejandro Mayorkas, and the government of Athens-Clarke County,” Collins said. The Venezuelan suspect in Laken Riley’s murder is one of millions of illegal aliens that the Biden administration has released into this country to be welcomed with open arms by Democrat-run sanctuary jurisdictions. This man had no business being in America, much less the UGA community to brutally murder this young American while she was on a run,” Collins said in part.

Georgia Sen. President Pro Temp John Kennedy highlighted the fact that, like New York, Athens is also a sanctuary city, arguing that such policies “embolden criminals and endanger Georgians at the expense of the taxpayer. Let me be clear, politicians that put their political agenda over public safety should keep Georgians awake at night. The stakes are too high, and tragedies like this senseless act of violence reaffirm that we cannot tolerate incompetence or willful negligence in our criminal justice system.”

Ibarra was charged for Riley's murder on Friday, one day after her remains were discovered on the Augusta University campus. 

Ibarra reportedly illegally crossed the southwest U.S. border into El Paso, Texas, in September 2022 but was released from a detention center because of a lack of space there.

He was charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, felony murder, malice murder, concealing the death of another and failure to appear for a finger printable charge.

Police said the crime was a 'random, solo act' and they have no reason to believe the two actually knew one another.

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark told reporters Thursday that detectives searched Ibarra's apartment in Athens and evidence shows that he acted alone.

“He did not know her at all. I think this is a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual and bad things happened,” Clark said. “The evidence is robust. It is supported by key input by the community, physical evidence, and expert police work. Importantly, we were assisted by video footage from our campus security cameras network.”

Riley's family thanked law enforcement for the efforts on Sunday.

“We wish to thank the public for their prayers and thoughts during this tragic time,” the family said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Laken was an amazing daughter, sister, friend, and overall person in general. Her love for the Lord was exemplified in every aspect of her life. She will be missed every day, but we promise to honor her life moving forward in a very big way.”

The family also asked that the public respect their privacy.

“During this most difficult time, we ask that you respect our privacy, and provide us the time and space necessary to grieve our daughter's life that was tragically cut short.”