Laken Riley's father fears daughter's death being used as political wedge in immigration debate



lakenriley trumprally 020924 AP

The father of Laken Riley said he fears his daughter is being used as a political pawn in the ongoing immigration debate.

Jason Riley said in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Today” show Monday that he wished the death of his daughter would not be used to score political points. Laken Riley, 22, was found dead on the University of Georgia campus last month after her roommate reported her as missing.

“I’d rather her not be such a political, how you say — it started a storm in our country,” he told NBC, adding that her death has “incited a lot of people.” 

The suspect in her killing is Jose Ibarra, a Venezuelan citizen who entered the U.S. illegally in 2022, according to police. Republicans have since used her death as a rallying cry to enact stricter policies on immigration and the border — efforts that have been criticized by Democrats.

Jason Riley said “there’s people on both sides” who have lashed out at him and Riley’s mother since their daughter’s death.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) invoked Riley’s name during President Biden’s State of the Union address earlier this month, prompting Biden to pull out a pin with Riley’s name on it.

“Laken Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal. That’s right,” Biden said. “But how many thousands of people being killed by legals? To her parents I say, my heart goes out to you having lost children myself.”

Jason Riley didn’t call out specific politicians but said he was “angry” that her death is being used to get votes.

“I think it’s being used politically to get those votes,” he said. “It makes me angry. I feel like, you know, they’re just using my daughter’s name for that. And she was much better than that, and she should be raised up for the person that she is. She was an angel.”

He also said he avoids news coverage of his daughter’s case.

“She was only 22. She had a lot of life left to give to the world,” he said.

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