WATCH: Georgia Mayor Grapples With Immigration Policy BACKLASH Amid Student Murder

By Javier Sanchez | Thursday, 29 February 2024 08:30 PM
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In a press conference held on Wednesday, Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz addressed the recent murder of Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley and the subsequent arrest of illegal immigrant Jose Ibarra as a suspect.

The conference was marked by the presence of protestors demanding Girtz's resignation.

Mayor Girtz was questioned about the sanctuary city status of Athens-Clarke County, a topic that has been a subject of controversy. "The term sanctuary city doesn't have a sole legal or procedural definition," Girtz explained. "It means different things to different people depending on the context of the discussion."

His explanation was met with shouts of "liar" from the gathered crowd. One protestor accused Girtz of having "blood on your hands for this murder." Despite the interruptions, Girtz continued to clarify the county's position, stating that "many of the aspects that are ascribed to sanctuary cities are things that are disallowed by Georgia law." He added that the county submits a document annually to the Georgia Department of Audits, confirming that they do not meet the state's definitions of a sanctuary city.

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The crowd's response was a demand for Girtz's resignation. The mayor, however, maintained his stance, cautioning against "conflating immigration and crime." He urged the White House and lawmakers to address the border crisis, emphasizing that data does not support a connection between immigration and crime.

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A protestor held up a sign referencing a 2019 resolution signed by Girtz. The resolution, as reported by 11 Alive, stated that the local government "is welcoming to people from all lands and backgrounds and strives to foster a community where individuals and families of all statuses feel safe, are able to prosper and can breathe free." The resolution also expressed support for "immigrant and undocumented neighbors, especially those of Latinx heritage," and pledged protection from ICE.

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As Girtz attempted to address a reporter's question, a protestor shouted, "You're not defending us, you're not upholding your oath of office, sir. You are lawless, you are a criminal." The mayor tried to remove non-press members from the room, but was met with resistance.

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Girtz defended his position, stating, "We center our work here in Athens Clarke County in people's humanity. And part of everybody's humanity is the expectation of human dignity." He referred to the political climate of 2019, mentioning the then-President's derogatory comments about foreign-born individuals and the spread of such sentiments in places like Charlottesville.

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Girtz, a former educator, spoke of his experience working with students and their families in the community, many of whom have a variety of immigration statuses. He emphasized the importance of creating a stable environment for these families, stating that hate and vitriol disrupt community safety. "That resolution speaks to that question," he said.

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As Girtz spoke, a protestor shouted, "It's not vitriol, it's righteous indignation." Meanwhile, suspect Jose Ibarra faces charges including malice murder, murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and concealing the death of another, as well as the misdemeanor of physically hindering a 911 call.

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