ICE confirms Georgia student murder suspect entered US illegally, was previously arrested in NYC

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Sunday confirmed that the Venezuelan national charged in connection with the murder of 22-year-old Georgia nursing student Laken Riley entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 and had previously been arrested in New York City.

Fox News had previously reported that 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra, charged with the murder of Riley on the University of Georgia campus, had crossed into the U.S. illegally near El Paso in September 2022 and was paroled into the U.S.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, ICE confirmed he had been encountered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Sept. 8, 2022 after entering near El Paso and was “paroled and released for further processing.”

ICE also confirmed that Ibarra had been arrested by the New York Police Department a year later, on Sept. 14, 2023, and “charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation.”

GEORGIA STUDENT MURDER SUSPECT CONFIRMED TO BE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT 

Jose Antonio Ibarra Mugshot

Jose Ibarra, who was originally taken into custody on Friday by the UGA Police Department in connection with Laken Riley’s death, is now not believed to have had a connection to the victim. (Clarke County Sheriffs Office)

When ICE learns that what it believes to be a removable illegal immigrant has been arrested on criminal charges, the agency will normally lodge a detainer – a request asking local law enforcement to keep the suspect in custody until they can be transferred to ICE and put into deportation proceedings.

BROTHER OF UGA MURDER SUSPECT CHARGED WITH GREEN CARD FRAUD

Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student at the University of Georgia, was found dead near a lake on campus on Thursday, February 22, 2024. (Allyson Phillips/Facebook)

In this case, however, ICE’s statement says Ibarra was released before a detainer could be issued. NYC is also a “sanctuary city” which generally restricts law enforcement from complying with ICE detainers.

In its statement, ICE said that its Enforcement and Removal Operations office in Atlanta “encountered Ibarra pursuant to his arrest by the University of Georgia Police Department and being charged with murder and other crimes. ERO Atlanta lodged a detainer.” 

LAKEN RILEY CASE: GEORGIA AUTHORITIES IDENTIFY MURDER SUSPECT IN CUSTODY IN NURSING STUDENT’S SLAYING

Venezuelan migrant wife of suspected killer of Laken Riley, Jose Ibarra is seen in a red sweater in Queens

Layling Franco walks outside a migrant shelter in Queens, New York on Saturday, February 24, 2024. Layling Franco is the wife of Jose Antonio Ibarra, who was arrested in Georgia on suspicion of killing 22-year-old university student Laken Riley. (Brigitte Stelzer)

Layling Franco, 23, of Venezuela, and the wife of Ibarra, told the New York Post that she and her 5-year-old son were in the El Paso facility for five days before they made the journey to New York.

“We got married so we could join our asylum cases,” she told The Post. “He was the person I thought I could see through. We’ve known each other our entire lives.”

Franco claimed Ibarra was a calm person and that he left New York because he wanted to get a better job in Georgia. 

“He wasn’t aggressive, none of that,” she told the outlet. “We had problems as a couple, but our problems weren’t physical. We wouldn’t punch, but we’d raise our voices.”

She told The Post she’s seeing news of the crime “everywhere.”

“I want to talk to [Jose],” she said. “I have a lot of faith that this wasn’t him, that there was a misunderstanding somewhere. But if he did, he has to pay for what he did, truly.”

LAKEN RILEY MURDER SUSPECT JOSE IBARRA LIVED WITHIN 5-MINUTE WALK OF UGA CRIME SCENE

A split image of Joe Biden and Laken Riley with a photo of murder suspect Jose Ibarra in the center

President Biden on Sunday responded to the Thursday murder of Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley on UGA’s campus. (Chip Somodevilla/GetACty Images/ Facebook/ Clarke County Sheriff)

Riley, an Augusta University nursing student, was found dead Thursday after previously attending UGA before entering a nursing program at Augusta’s Athens campus, where she made the Dean’s List.

Police have charged Ibarra with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another, authorities said on Friday.

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Ibarra appeared in court on Saturday morning, where Clarke County Magistrate Judge Donarell Green denied his bond “for today.” Two translators were present. Ibarra nodded when spoken to. 

Ibarra’s brother, Diego, was charged Friday with possessing a fraudulent green card and is being held in state custody. The federal arrest affidavit for Diego Ibarra says that in September 2023, Athens-Clarke County Police charged him with drunken driving and driving without a license. He was later arrested for shoplifting and later skipped court.

Fox News’ Michael Ruiz, Bill Melugin and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.

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