U.S. Senate GOP seeking to attach immigration measure to massive spending bill

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The U.S. Capitol Building. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Republicans want to tie an immigration bill named for a slain Georgia nursing student to a massive spending package lawmakers must pass by Friday night to avoid a partial shutdown.

Senate Republicans, led by Ted Budd of North Carolina, told reporters Thursday they’re proposing to attach the House-passed Laken Riley Act as an amendment to the $1.2 trillion spending bill slated to fund crucial federal government functions, including the Department of Homeland Security.

The legislation is named for 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley who was killed Feb. 22 on a running trail on the University of Georgia campus. Police arrested a 26-year-old Venezuelan man, Jose Ibarra, for her murder.

Ibarra entered the U.S. unlawfully in 2022, according to U.S. immigration authorities, and had been previously arrested in Georgia on a shoplifting charge and in New York for driving a scooter while unlicensed and with a child who was not wearing a helmet, according to news reports.

Budd, with several GOP senators at his side Thursday, blamed the Biden administration for a “complete lack of enforcement” at the border that results in situations like the accused Ibarra not being detained on the federal or local levels.

“We simply don’t believe that another American family needs to experience a tragedy like the one that befell the Riley family. And that’s why we need to pass this Laken Riley Act today,” Budd said.

When asked by reporters if he thought the spending package would be an appropriate vehicle for adding the immigration measure, Budd said he believes the amendment meets the “germane” standard needed to add a measure to an appropriations bill.

“If you look at the content of it, we would hope all of them would support it, but if you look at the reality, that’s not our expectation,” he said.

Campaign issue

The tragic killing has become a lightning rod for Republican lawmakers as 2024 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump campaigns on immigration.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wore a t-shirt bearing Riley’s name at the State of the Union address and tried to hand President Joe Biden a pin with her name as he entered the House chamber.

Ongoing tensions over U.S. immigration policy grew particularly fierce in early February when months-long bipartisan Senate negotiations for tightened immigration laws in exchange for Ukraine aid went bust after Trump urged congressional Republicans to oppose it.

In a 251-170 vote on March 7, House lawmakers approved the bill named for Riley, which would require Homeland Security officials to detain immigrants charged with local theft, burglary or shoplifting.

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The bill would also authorize state attorneys general to bring civil lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of residents harmed by a “failure” of federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

Thirty-seven House Democrats joined Republicans in passing the legislation.

The messaging bill was never expected to gain traction in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

Budd and Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama asked on March 14 for unanimous consent that the legislation be brought to the Senate floor.

But Majority Whip Dick Durbin objected, while acknowledging that Riley’s death was “a horrible crime and a heartbreaking loss.”

However, Durbin said, the “sweeping approach” proposed in the bill would eliminate the discretion of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, “to prioritize the most dangerous individuals and require ICE to treat those arrested for shoplifting the same as those convicted of violent crimes. Let me repeat that — require ICE to treat those arrested for shoplifting the same as those convicted of violent crimes.”

“This would overwhelm ICE’s capacity and facilities and make our nation less, not more, safe,” Durbin said on the floor.

The post U.S. Senate GOP seeking to attach immigration measure to massive spending bill appeared first on Arkansas Advocate.