Southern Poverty Law Center fought reforms that might have prevented Laken Riley’s death, immigration activist says

(The Daily Signal) – The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly opposed Georgia bills that would require local law enforcement to report illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs…

(The Daily Signal) – The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly opposed Georgia bills that would require local law enforcement to report illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they are charged with or convicted of other crimes.

This activism has drawn renewed scrutiny in the wake of Laken Riley’s killing, allegedly at the hands of an illegal alien who appears to have slipped through the justice system, and amid a defamation lawsuit against the SPLC.

D.A. King, a Georgia immigration activist who founded a pro-immigration enforcement organization called the Dustin Inman Society, noted that the SPLC opposed two laws that would have improved communication between local law enforcement and ICE.

King is currently suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for defamation after the group branded his organization an “anti-immigrant hate group” in 2018, around the same time the SPLC registered a lobbyist to oppose an immigration enforcement bill King supported.

“We will never know how many of the 182 illegal alien murderers now in the Georgia prison system could have been snagged before they killed innocent Georgians if not for the well-funded, anti-enforcement SPLC lobbying operation,” King told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement Friday.

SPLC registered a lobbyist to oppose SB 452, a bill that would have required courts to check whether, when sentencing a defendant convicted of a felony, that person is also an illegal alien.

The SPLC joined with the organization Project South in opposing the bill, calling it unconstitutional. Project South claimed that law enforcement would violate the Fourth Amendment by detaining illegal aliens “without a judicial warrant or probable cause” after they served time for other crimes.

According to King, the legislation “would have added increased protection in our public safety laws aimed at the organized crime that is illegal immigration.”

Naomi Tsu, an SPLC attorney at the time, registered as a lobbyist on March 1, 2018, three days after SB 452 passed the Georgia Senate. King argues that the SPLC’s activism helped torpedo the measure, which failed in the Georgia House of Representatives.

King also complains that Tsu tried to steal his phone. (The Daily Signal reached out to Muslim Advocates, where Tsu serves as a litigation consultant, for comment.)

In 2020, the SPLC also opposed HB 1083, a bill that would have given Georgia citizens injured by criminal illegal aliens—or Georgia families of those killed by them—the ability to sue local governments with so-called “sanctuary” policies for damages.

“HB 1083 died in large part because of public threats and smears from SPLC lobbyists,” King said.

Before the Southern Poverty Law Center registered Tsu as a lobbyist against SB 452 in 2018, the SPLC told The Associated Press that it didn’t consider King’s organization to be a “hate group.” Yet after Tsu opposed King’s bill, the SPLC branded the Dustin Inman Society an “anti-immigrant hate group.”

King sued the SPLC for defamation, and the case cleared a major legal hurdle last year.

As I wrote in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it used to monitor the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against mainstream conservative and Christian organizations, putting them on a “hate map” with Klan chapters. The SPLC “hate map” includes immigration reform organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies.

Laken Riley

Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, disappeared last month after she went on a run on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, where she had graduated. Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, an illegal alien from Venezuela, faces multiple charges of murder and assault in Riley’s slaying. Authorities said there is no evidence that Ibarra knew Riley.

Ibarra entered the U.S. illegally in El Paso, Texas, on Sept. 8, 2022, with his wife and her son seeking asylum, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Authorities released him “for further processing,” the New York Post reported.

Police in New York City had arrested Ibarra on Aug. 31 and charged him with endangering a child, but released him before immigration officials could ask police to hold him in custody. Police in Athens arrested Ibarra for shoplifting in October; a judge issued a warrant in December when the illegal alien failed to show up in court.

Athens, Georgia, is a sanctuary city.

Georgia state Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Republican who sponsored the current Georgia bill HB 1105, said he blames the Biden administration for Riley’s killing.

“You have to remember, that’s how he got here. They put him on a bus and sent him into the interior of the country,” Petrea previously told The Daily Signal, referring to the Biden administration.

“I can’t tell you if they had reported him, would ICE have responded in any way,” the Republican lawmaker added. “The removal of criminal aliens has declined 67% since Biden took over.”

The state lawmaker noted that the Georgia Department of Corrections reported holding 182 illegal aliens who are murderers in state prisons with ICE detainers.

“I can’t say it would have changed the outcome of this horrible tragedy,” Petrea said of HB 1105, but it would help in similar cases.

Would SB 452 Have Prevented Laken Riley’s Death?

HB 452 may not have directly prevented Laken Riley’s slaying, but it might have helped contribute to a legal atmosphere where federal law enforcement could have captured and deported Ibarra before Riley was killed, Simon Hankinson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news and commentary outlet.)

“He was arrested in New York, [and] he should have been charged and held until his trial was over,” Hankinson said of Ibarra. “But New York releases everybody they think is not a flight risk.”

“Then he shoplifted in Georgia,” Hankinson added. “They had a judge down there who’s ultra-woke. Instead of convicting him, they deferred the prosecution even though he clearly shoplifted items of value.”

“I suspect even if they had told ICE about one or other of the arrests, he probably wouldn’t have been important enough for them to pick up,” the Heritage fellow said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has ordered his department to focus on serious criminals. The U.S. House of Representatives recently impeached Mayorkas, charging him with failing to carry out his legal duties to enforce immigration law.

Although one bill may not have saved Riley’s life, Hankinson noted that reforms to address illegal immigration and other crimes act like a net.

“If you look at a fishing net and you look at any one strand in it, it’s true that no one strand will catch a fish,” he said. The entire net, however, does solve the problem.

Rep. Petrea, who contributed to SB 452, told The Daily Signal, “I do think it would have been an effective tool to avoid these crimes.”

The SPLC did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by publication time.