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    Parents of Laken Riley Turn Down Far-Right Rep’s SOTU Speech Invite

    By Matt Young,

    Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

    The parents of slain UGA jogger Laken Riley have declined an invitation to the State of the Union address Thursday in order to grieve their daughter, according to Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA).

    Collins, who represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, where the 22-year-old nursing student is alleged to have been murdered, said in an announcement to X on Wednesday that his office had sent an invite, “but understandably, they have chosen to stay home as they grieve the loss of their daughter.”

    It is unclear whether Collins’ reputation for the wilder of side of politics was also at play in the decision to turn down the invite—he is currently facing criticism for his response to an antisemitic post on X that called a Washington Post reporter out for being Jewish.

    He also very publicly supports Texas’ use of razor wire on the border and caused outrage last month after he suggested using “Pinochet Air” tactics against an undocumented migrant (referring to the brutal tactic known as “death flights” used famously by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, which saw dissidents and opposition figures thrown from a helicopter into the ocean or into the high peaks of the Andes). His post violated X’s rules, the platform said, but said it would remain public due to public interest.

    The Daily Beast has reached out to Laken’s parents and Collins’ office for comment.

    In a statement on GoFundMe on Feb. 27, Riley’s father, John Phillips, described her as “an amazing daughter, sister, friend and overall person in general. Her love for the Lord was exemplified in every aspect of her life. She will be missed every day, but we promise to honor her life moving forward in a very big way.”

    Riley’s body was found unconscious with “visible injuries” at the University of Georgia campus in February. A 26-year-old Venezuelan man, Jose Ibarra , was later taken into custody. Police claim it was “ crime of opportunity ” and Ibarra has been charged with felony murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.

    On Thursday, Collins said he would honor Riley by keeping his guest seat vacant at the presidential address. The empty seat, he added, will also honor “all American victims of illegal alien crime.”

    GOP lawmakers have been outspoken in their outrage at the murder, using the issue to blame the Biden administration for border policies that allow illegal immigrants into the country. On Monday, Collins introduced the Laken Riley Act, which, if approved, would give states more power to circumvent federal immigration laws if a migrant commits a crime.

    “As Joe Biden attempts to paint a rosy picture of the crime-ridden country he has created, he will look up at an empty seat that memorializes those we’ve lost because of his open border policies,” Collins wrote.

    ICE spokeswoman Lindsay Williams confirmed in an earlier statement to The Daily Beast that the suspect illegally entered the U.S. near El Paso, Texas , in 2022. Ibarra was “paroled and released for further processing,” and eventually made his way to New York City, where he was arrested a year later. “He was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued,” Williams added.

    Read more at The Daily Beast.

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