UGA homicide suspect failed to notify ICE of his move to Georgia

Jose Ibarra, arrested after the killing of Laken Riley, had failed to keep immigration authorities abreast of his whereabouts
Jose Antonio Ibarra was booked into the Clarke County Jail in the death of 22-year-old Laken Riley, who was running on the University of Georgia campus when she was killed, officials said.

Credit: Clarke County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Clarke County Sheriff's Office

Jose Antonio Ibarra was booked into the Clarke County Jail in the death of 22-year-old Laken Riley, who was running on the University of Georgia campus when she was killed, officials said.

As an immigrant who unlawfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, Jose Ibarra was required to promptly notify immigration authorities of changes to his whereabouts after being released into the country. But the Venezuelan national and suspect in the killing of Laken Riley failed to report his 2023 move from New York to Georgia.

That’s according to an Atlanta-based spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

People who were released by border authorities after entering the country illegally must show up to recurring check-in appointments at an ICE field office.

“It’s just kind of a touch. It’s like, why do you go report to a probation officer? Just to make sure. Just to make sure we’ve got our eye on you. I mean, there’s that effect as well, ‘I’ve got to be good because ICE is watching me.’ We get to know where they are. And if they don’t show up ICE can begin looking for them, they can put them on the list and look for them,” said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta-area immigration attorney.

According to ICE, Ibarra had a check-in appointment scheduled later this year in New York – though he could also have looked up the address of an ICE field office closer to him and gone there instead.

After entering the country in September 2022, Ibarra initially settled in New York City, where he had a brush with local law enforcement. Last August, he was arrested in New York for driving a scooter while unlicensed and with a child who was not wearing a helmet. He was not prosecuted or jailed. By October, he had relocated to Athens. Ibarra would have needed to notify ICE that his address had changed within five days of the move, but he had no contact with the agency.

The 26-year-old is currently held without bond at the Clarke County Jail. On Feb. 22, he allegedly killed Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, on a running trail on the University of Georgia campus.

Ibarra’s older brother, Diego, took even more drastic action to fall off immigration authorities’ radar. After illegally crossing the southern border last April – and physically tussling with Border Patrol agents to resist arrest – Ibarra was released on the condition that he wear an ankle bracelet. Two weeks later, Diego Ibarra was listed as an absconder after authorities learned he had cut off his electronic monitor, which was found on a Colorado roadside. Diego Ibarra, 28, was arrested in Athens on Feb. 23 for presenting a counterfeit green card to police investigating Riley’s death.

Kuck says Jose Ibarra’s failure to update his address with ICE could be due to the challenges many people face when trying to contact the agency.

“There’s a hotline but if you call it, nobody answers. And the email address that they have, half the time it gets rejected and half the time you never hear back. … ICE has not made it easy,” he said. “You would think that they would, given the volume of people. You’re talking about millions of people now that need to change their address probably once a year. What is the system?”

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