Democrat Sheriff Where Illegal Immigrant Accused Of Murder Vowed Not To Cooperate With ICE

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Mar 02, 2024 - 04:40 PM

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The elected Democrat sheriff of the Georgia county where illegal immigrant Jose Ibarra allegedly murdered nursing student Laken Riley campaigned in 2020 on not cooperating with immigration authorities on the deportation of illegal immigrants.

File photo showing a motorist slowing down to watch law enforcement officers at a crime scene in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 12, 2005. (Davis Turner/Getty Images)

John Williams, who in November 2020 was elected to Athens-Clarke County Sheriff, said in an interview with Athens Political Nerds ahead of the election that he wouldn’t cooperate with detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

It is not my intention, when elected sheriff, to cooperate with those detainers,” Mr. Williams said.

An ICE detainer is a written request to local law enforcement to detain an individual who has been arrested on criminal charges and which ICE believes is a non-citizen subject to deportation.

A detainer asks police or other agencies to notify ICE when a removable individual is to be released from custody and requests that such individuals be held for longer so that ICE agents can take them into custody.

When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” ICE says in an explainer.

‘Not Something We’ll Be Doing’

In the pre-election interview, Mr. Williams said that he believes that cooperating with ICE detention requests instills a “culture of fear” in the community.

“I see it as the sheriff’s responsibility, any law enforcement, to protect and serve the community,” Mr. Williams continued.

“We can’t help with a culture of fear in our community and expect our citizens to respond and help us in situations, because the fact is that a lot of law enforcement is based around community support,” he explained.

“Building relationships is key, and if we’re, I guess, antagonizing people because they are undocumented or underdocumented, then they build that fear in them, and they’re not likely to come to us not only when we need their help but when they need our help,” he added.

So that’s not something we'll be doing. We won’t be doing any type of round-ups, and we won’t be contributing to that culture of fear,” he said.

Mr. Williams’ resurfaced comments have been subjected to renewed scrutiny after angry Georgia residents reacted to Feb. 28 remarks by Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz, who sought to dismiss the claim that Athens was a sanctuary city.

During a press conference on public safety, Mr. Girtz repeatedly rejected the characterization of Athens as a sanctuary city, insisting Georgia law doesn’t allow it. Sanctuary cities are normally understood to be jurisdictions where illegal immigrants are protected from prosecution or deportation.

“Liar! You’re a liar!” several people in the audience yelled repeatedly in response to Mr. Girtz’s remarks. They came amid public outrage over the murder of Ms. Riley in Athens, allegedly at the hands of Mr. Ibarra, an illegal immigrant from Venezuela who entered the country 18 months ago, ICE spokesperson Lindsay Williams told The Epoch Times.

Ms. Williams also said that ICE lodged a detainer after Mr. Ibarra was arrested on Feb. 23 and charged with the murder of Ms. Riley, who was found dead near a running trail with a disfigured skull.

Laken Riley in an undated photo. (GoFundMe/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The Athens sheriff’s resurfaced remarks about refusing to cooperate with ICE detainers were met with a flurry of critical reactions online, with one popular account on social media platform X saying that, instead of protecting illegal immigrants, Mr. Williams should have focused on protecting citizens in his community.

Our country is being destroyed by woke sheriffs, mayors, members of Congress, judges, and DA’s,” the @Travis_in_Flint account, which has over 360,000 followers, posted.

Mr. Williams did not respond to a request for comment on the criticism and on whether he stands by his policy of not cooperating with ICE detainers in light of Ms. Riley’s slaying.

Former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, said in a thread on social media that, prior to 2019, Athens had a policy of compliance with ICE, but that changed after backlash from activists and pressure from Mr. Girtz.

While it’s the federal government’s job to secure our borders, state law enforcement must hold local officials accountable when they violate the law. Our cities cannot be safe havens for violent, illegal aliens at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” she wrote on social media platform X.

In the wake of Ms. Riley’s murder, Republican lawmakers in Georgia are pushing to tighten immigration laws.

Under a proposal by Rep. Jessa Petrea, a Republican, law enforcement officials who fail to cooperate with ICE detainers would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The proposal, House Bill 1105, advanced through the state House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Feb. 27 and heads to the full House for further debate.

A number of Republicans have blamed President Joe Biden’s catch-and-release policies for the tragic loss of Mr. Riley’s life.


The body of Ms. Riley, a 22-year-old Augusta University College of Nursing student, was found on Feb. 22 near running trails, with an affidavit indicating that she had been beaten so brutally that her head was caved in.

Mr. Ibarra was arrested in connection with the slaying and charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, a suspect in the murder of a Georgia nursing student, is seen in an undated police mugshot. (Clarke County Sheriff's Office)

Ms. Williams, the ICE spokesperson, told The Epoch Times that Mr. Ibarra was arrested in September 2022 by ICE agents after making an illegal crossing near El Paso, Texas. After his arrest, he was paroled and released for further processing.

She added that Mr. Ibarra was subsequently arrested in August 2023 by New York police officers and charged with “acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17,” as well a motor vehicle license violation. Ms. Williams said he was released by the NYPD before immigration officers could file a detainer request and trigger the deportation process.

ICE lodged a detainer after Mr. Ibarra’s Feb. 23 arrest, per Ms. Williams, meaning he faces deportation after either being found not guilty and released from custody or, if convicted, after serving out his sentence.