Congress passed the Laken Riley Act on Thursday, which garnered support from 37 Democrats despite being introduced by a Republican. According to some news media, this list represents a list of Democrats who voted to force the Biden administration to detain immigrants. Let’s see how true this statement is.

Bearing The Name of a Murdered Student

This piece of legislation is named after a young nursing student who is alleged to have been killed by an illegal immigrant. Laken Riley’s body was found in a wooded area in Athens, Georgia.

Source: Lisa Ferdinando

The bill was introduced by Georgia Representative Mike Collins alongside calls from the GOP that President Biden mention Riley’s name in his State of the Union address.

Allegedly Killed By an Illegal Immigrant

The perpetrator detained for the murder is Jose Antonio Ibarra. He was charged with murder alongside several other felony accounts. Ibarra has a previous criminal record as well.

Source: Flickr/Bob Jagendorf

According to the ICE, he was previously detained for entering the country illegally. The 26-year-old Venezuelan citizen was detained in 2022 for attempting to enter the US without permission.

Highlighting Crimes By Illegal Immigrants

Republicans have been criticizing the Biden administration for their approach to illegal immigration. The administration has cut funding to border patrols in many states.

Source: Flickr/katerkate

Republicans used the Laken Riley Act to highlight the dangers of illegal immigration. However, Democrats state that it’s just another method of politicizing murder in the worst way.

Biden Asks GOP Politicians To Back Immigration Compromise

In the State of the Union address, Biden begged GOP politicians to “send him the border bill now.” He asked them to back the immigration compromise as part of his address to the nation.

Source: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue

Republicans have been wary of the administration’s approach to compromise. In several situations previously, Democrat politicians tried to sneak in support for international allies into the border debate bills.

Open Border Policies Have Become a Problem

The Biden administration has been taking a far more lax approach to maintaining border security. Thanks to underfunding of border patrol initiatives, the volume of immigrants at the border has skyrocketed.

Source: Flickr/Mesa0789

Estimates put the number of detentions for illegal border crossings in 2023 at around 300,000. This excludes the number of people who successfully crossed the border and weren’t caught.

Immigration Seems To Be a Crisis

Several Republican governors of border states have accused the Biden administration of letting the immigration system fall to ruin and creating a crisis in their respective states.

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos

The Laken Riley Act pushes the Department of Homeland Security (specifically, its head, Alejandro Mayorkas) to detain aliens who have been charged with theft and for other purposes.

Supported by 37 Democrats

The bill was brought for a vote, and 37 Democrats voted in favor of its passage. Conversely, 170 Democrats voted against it. In the final voting, the bill passed 251-170.

Source: Medium

GOP politicians seized on this disparity in voting, claiming that 170 Democrats didn’t value the lives of their constituents. The motivation for not voting for the bill could have been the Democrats’ position on immigration.

Not All Bad Immigrants

Democrats argue that bills such as these could lead to criminal charges for innocent people. However, this same humanitarian approach gives the GOP fuel for its fire.

Source: Flickr/Nathan Rupert

Several Republicans criticized both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for lax enforcement of immigration laws. They claim that Riley would still be alive if the administration had arrested Ibarra earlier.

A Call To Stop Catch-and-Release

The bill states that the Biden administration should stop catch-and-release policies regarding illegal immigrants. It should also detain illegal immigrants and enforce the existing immigration policy.

Source: Flickr/Seth Anderson

It goes on to state that the administration should reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy first introduced by former president Donald Trump. It forces immigrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico until their court date.

Dealing With Illegal Immigrants Convicted Of Crime

While the wording of the act and the statements on social media highlight that it deals with illegal immigrants committing criminal activities, the act is far more sweeping in its specifics.

Source: Flickr/meltwater

The GOP’s discussion of the bill and its actual impact show how rhetoric can shape public opinion. The bill doesn’t only address illegal immigrants committing crimes but unlawful immigration on the whole.

GOP Potentially Scapegoating Immigrants

Democrat politicians commenting on the bill noted that the wording covers several other bills previously introduced. They are concerned with the GOP using the bill to go after illegal immigrants.

Source: Flickr/Miki Jourdan

The Democrats have favored an open migration policy, and the Biden administration supported it during its time in power. Yet some Democrats seem to be rethinking their position.

Why Are The Democrats Supporting This Bill?

Politically, some Democrats see the open immigration policy and the catch-and-release policies as a problem for their constituents. Their voting shows that they think these things should change.

Source: Flickr/Elvert Barnes

The Democrats who voted to support the bill weren’t limited in geographic scope either. Representatives from places as diverse as Texas on one hand and Pennsylvania on the other voted in favor.

Questioning The Wisdom of the Administration

Democratic support for this bill shows that the immigration policy of the Biden administration is more contentious than many people think it is. It shows a divide in the Democratic party.

Source: Flickr/GPA Photo Archive

With the 2024 elections on the horizon, the GOP would look at this as a sign of weakness and may seek to capitalize on it. It gives them an excellent chink in the Democrats’ armor to exploit.

Will We See Immigration Policy Change Now?

Between the Laken Riley Act and the Biden administration’s goals of border protection funding, it’s still uncertain what will change. Illegal immigration continues to be a problem for the US, especially in the border states controlled by Republican governors.

Source: Flickr/ BBC World Service

However, if the Biden administration doesn’t give the GOP a good compromise on signing in more funding for border protection, things might continue to worsen. It comes down to how much these parties see illegal immigration as an issue and what they’re willing to do to solve it.