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Laken Hope Riley’s Murder Outs Georgia As Largely A Sanctuary State

Many local officials contribute to Georgia’s illegal immigration by declaring an illegal sanctuary policy.


The heart-wrenching story of the murder of the University of Georgia (UGA) nursing student Laken Hope Riley reveals a truth that many Republican politicians in Georgia hope will never see daylight. The latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security show that only six states host more illegal aliens than Georgia. At about 400,000, we have more illegal aliens than “green card” holders.

While illegal immigration is the No. 1 issue in the nation, until last week’s news of the murder at UGA, the same was not true in Georgia’s politics. It is sadly accurate to say that much of Georgia is a sanctuary state. Many local officials contribute to the state’s illegal immigration by violating the state law they have sworn to enforce and declaring an illegal sanctuary policy.

Shortly after taking office in 2021, Democrat Cobb County Sheriff Craig Owens invited a mariachi band to celebrate his announcement to end the county jail’s lifesaving 287(g) agreement (authorizing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to delegate to state and local law enforcement officers the authority to perform specified immigration officer functions) — and then he danced. The invited crowd of newly empowered, anti-enforcement activists funded by corporate Georgia went wild with gratitude.

On the other side of metro-Atlanta, at his own swearing-in event in Gwinnett County, the newly elected Democrat sheriff, Keybo Taylor, stood before a large audience, including media, and boasted that he too had ended the county jail’s 287(g) agreement with ICE. He went further by announcing that “what we will not be doing is notifying ICE of anybody’s immigration status in the jail or any of our facilities.” To make his professional position on the inherent dangers of “criminal illegals” set free on our streets crystal clear, Taylor added, “We will not keep anyone in jail under an ICE detainer.” 

To address these defiant officials, Georgia Rep. Jesse Petrea has introduced his pro-enforcement bill HB 1105 (the Criminal Alien Track and Report Act), which would add penalties for noncompliance with existing laws against sanctuary. It defines “sanctuary” as “any regulation, rule, policy, or practice adopted by a local governing body which prohibits or restricts local officials or employees from communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting immigration status information while such local official or employee is acting within the scope of his or her official duties.”

Lack of Media Coverage

My discussions with law enforcement officials and open records requests show many Georgia jailers do not obey the laws against sanctuary, instead defying the law designed to protect us from the criminal illegals who are murdering, raping and, molesting innocent Georgians — including our children. My complaints filed with various officials and agencies to force compliance, or at least media coverage, went nowhere.

Taylor and the many other sheriffs in open and public defiance of state law against sanctuary have escaped the media attention that trusting voters would expect. The reason for the news suppression is not a mystery. Most media are not on the side of immigration enforcement. But imagine the howling headlines if any state agency violated any law that benefits illegal aliens.

Gov. Kemp’s Record

This brings us to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. As noted by the left-wing Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper at the time, Kemp’s first TV ad in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary cited Americans who had been killed by illegal aliens and portrayed him as “tough on illegal immigration.”

The widespread belief then was that he meant tough on illegal immigration in Georgia.

“As governor, conservative businessman Brian Kemp will create a comprehensive database to track criminal aliens in Georgia. He will also update Georgia law to streamline deportations from our jails and prisons,” went the detailed promises Kemp made on his 2018 campaign website.

 “Donald Trump was right. We must secure the border and end sanctuary cities,” said candidate Kemp in 2018. But Kemp has ignored illegal immigration in Georgia.

Sending Georgia’s National Guard to the border has not resulted in Taylor et al. ending their illegal sanctuary policies. “Standing with” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in an on-the-border Fox News camera shot will not aid final passage of Rep. Petrea’s enforcement bill in Georgia.

If Kemp is ever going to finally speak up on enforcing Georgia’s laws on illegal immigration — especially laws prohibiting sanctuary policies — Petrea’s measure provides an obvious opportunity.

Section 2, Paragraph 2, of the Georgia Constitution says: “The Governor shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed and shall be the conservator of the peace throughout the state.” If Kemp continues to ignore illegal immigration and sanctuary jails in Georgia, all concerned should ask exactly how he is better on the dangerous crisis in Georgia than President Joe Biden is nationally.

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