Ahead of SOTU, House passes bill named after murdered Georgia nursing student

Hours before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, the House passed legislation that would require the detention of undocumented migrants charged with theft or burglary.

The Laken Riley Act, named after a Georgia nursing student allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant, passed 251-170 with 37 Democrats in support.

The measure would also empower state attorneys general to sue the federal government if they can show their states are being harmed through failure to enforce national immigration policies. And it comes as recent polling shows Americans see immigration as the most important issue facing the U.S.

“Republicans will not stand for the release of dangerous criminals into our communities,” Speaker Mike Johnson said on “Fox News” on Wednesday.

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.), invited Riley’s parents to the State of the Union but “they have chosen to stay home as they grieve the loss of their daughter,” he posted Wednesday.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said the measure had improved since its inception, but that it faced a certain death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“[It’s] still not great,” Roy said, arguing the bill remains too weak. “But, you know, we can try to move something — it’ll die in the Senate.”

Leading Democrats continued to criticize the effort. “This is just a totally cynical and disgusting attempt to exploit this tragedy to score cheap political points in an election year,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ranking member of the Rules Committee.

“House Republicans have turned this tragedy into a partisan attack on immigrant communities. This is a time to bring the community together, not tear them apart. These partisan policies fuel anti-immigrant hate, increase fear in immigrant communities, and make it more difficult for law enforcement to form the relationships necessary to prevent crime in our communities,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) said in a statement to POLITICO.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.

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