The Death of Laken Riley: A Case of Res Ipsa Loquitur

Laken Hope Riley lay motionltess in the woods behind Lake Herrick. She had been out for a jog on the University of Georgia campus when police say an illegal immigrant named Jose Ibarra ambushed her. When Riley struggled and tried to call 911, Ibarra mauled the 22-year-old nursing student so ferociously that he disfigured her skull.

Ibarra then dragged Riley’s body to a secluded area near the lake, police said, where she would be found and pronounced dead. It was the first homicide on campus in decades.

The attack took place in broad daylight between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. There appears to be no personal motive for the crime. Ibarra and Riley did not know each other. “I think this was a crime of opportunity, where he saw an individual and bad things happened,” said Jeffrey Clark, the chief of the University of Georgia police. 

Calling Riley’s murder a “crime of opportunity” that simply “happened” is ridiculous. It suggests this tragedy transpired with the spontaneity of a squall, a violent act of nature that could not have been anticipated or avoided. In fact, Riley’s death was the product of deliberate policy choices that delivered predictable results with the precision of a Swiss watch. In other words, our immigration system is not, as people are pleased to say, broken. It is working exactly as intended—to the benefit of people like Ibarra and the detriment of people like Riley. Res ipsa loquitur—“the thing speaks for itself.”

In law, the concept of res ipsa loquitur means that the circumstances of a case make it clear, even in the absence of direct evidence, that negligence occurred. Three things must be proven: First, the incident must have been something that wouldn’t ordinarily occur without negligence. Second, it must have been caused by something solely in the defendant’s control. Third, the plaintiff must not have contributed to its cause. 

Using the parameters of this concept, one could meet the burden of proof that America’s immigration policies amount to negligence—malicious negligence— against American citizens. The thing speaks for itself, but it isn’t spelled out on a plaque somewhere. Instead, the proof is in the stories of victims like Riley.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection first apprehended Ibarra after he crossed into El Paso, Texas, from Venezuela on Sept. 8, 2022. Department of Homeland Security sources told NewsNation that he was released from custody due to a lack of detention space. Sending him back to Venezuela was not an option because the immigration system is designed to serve people like him. It worked as intended.

About a year later, Ibarra was arrested in New York and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child younger than 17 and for a motor vehicle license violation, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statement.

That should have been the final straw. But the New York Police Department released Ibarra. In 2014, the city passed “sanctuary” legislation prohibiting police and the Department of Correction from honoring “detainer requests” made by ICE. Detainers inform law enforcement that ICE intends to take custody of an individual they’re holding. These are the main tools agents have to apprehend and remove criminal illegal immigrants. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s sanctuary city policy effectively kicked ICE out of the Big Apple. So, again, the noncooperation policy worked as designed in Ibarra’s case—unfortunately for Riley.

That is why her death was not, as Chief Clark suggested, a tragedy made possible only by chance and circumstance. Indeed, his colleague, John Williams, now the sheriff of the county where Riley was murdered, campaigned on the promise of adopting de Blasio’s approach to ICE. “It is not my intention, when elected sheriff, to cooperate with those detainers,” Williams said in a 2020 interview with the podcast Athens Political Nerds.

That was a promise made and kept.

After Riley’s death, ICE reported that Ibarra’s brother, Diego, had been arrested multiple times last year in Athens, Georgia. Diego crossed the border in Texas on April 3, 2023. He was briefly turned back under the COVID-era Title 42 policy, which blocked migrants from entering the United States if they posed a risk of spreading infectious disease. But Diego persisted. He entered the country illegally once more on April 30. That time, he managed to avoid removal by asking for asylum. He figured out the magic word.

The federal government then welcomed him with open arms, enrolling Diego into “Alternatives to Detention,” a program in which illegal immigrants are monitored with GPS tracking bracelets after they are released. Diego celebrated his arrival to his new home by driving under the influence and shoplifting. Since he didn’t bother to show up to court for these crimes, he was also charged with “failure to appear for a fingerprintable offense.” He got away with it each time because every single detainer filed against him by ICE was ignored, just like Williams said they would be.

Our policy of open borders and the daily tragedies that flow from it aren’t normal. This is happening because the people in power have allowed it to happen despite the fact most Americans never agreed to surrender their sovereignty or safety. It is not pedantic to point this out, even though it should be obvious. If one can look past the “broken” excuse and understand that our immigration system—and all our governmental systems—are working exactly as intended, one can see things clearly.

This is not a “crisis.” The term “invasion” is more accurate. One could even describe what is happening as nation-building—nation-building through immigration. The ruling class is incubating a new country inside the old one.

Nearly 7.3 million illegal immigrants have entered the country under President Joe Biden, according to a Fox News analysis. That is likely a conservative estimate. But it’s still a number greater than the population of any one of 36 states. By the end of February, Border Patrol had reported 961,537 “encounters” in the current fiscal year (from October through September). 

This is not a “crisis.” The term “invasion” is more accurate. One could even describe what is happening as nation-building—nation-building through immigration. The ruling class is incubating a new country inside the old one.

Sometimes that process is called “The Great Replacement.” That doesn’t tell us much about what comes next, though. Economist Garrett Jones has an idea. In his latest book, The Culture Transplant: How Migrants Make the Economies They Move to a Lot Like the Ones They Left, Jones paints a portrait of a future made less innovative, less prosperous, and less safe by mass immigration. A world made by and for Jose and Diego Ibarra.

Trust is a key theme of Jones’ book. It is the basis of cooperation and, ultimately, the flourishing of society. He focuses on the economic implications of importing people from low-trust societies and how those views, handed down through generations, affect institutions. One survey he cites finds a “negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust across all studies. The relationship is stronger for trust in neighbors, and when studied in more local contexts.” 

Another survey of 76 countries cited by Jones reported that “where ethnicity is more strongly predictive of culture … violent conflict is more likely, and public goods provision tends to be lower.” Put plainly, society becomes less safe and less functional where there is more ethnic diversity brought about by mass immigration.

The second cost, Jones explains, “means that there will usually be less spending on things that everyone uses together: roads, public health systems, clean water, trash pickup, things like that.” Does that mean the government gets smaller? Not quite. Jones points to a summary in the Journal of Economic Surveys that notes “a lot of spending just shifts from shared goods, like scholarships or government jobs targeted for politically favored ethnic groups.” 

Jones adds:

But perhaps more important than whether government dollars are spent on roads or cushy government jobs is whether people feel that they can get along with each other, trust each other, work out conflicts without resorting to violence. The fall in public goods spending in ethnically diverse societies might well be a symptom of a problem—social distrust—more than a problem itself.

One may ask why anyone would want to create a country where the trains don’t run on time, where the doors shear from airplanes midair, and where young nursing students can be so easily killed while out for a jog. One might also wonder why President Biden would risk dooming his reelection prospects by pursuing policies that result in such a country. That, however, would be to ask the wrong questions. 

The ruling class is thinking about the long-term, about a country in which one cannot trust one’s neighbor or hope for natural social harmony. A country that is inherently sick and divided, one that is dependent upon a class of managing elites to keep it on life support. 

It is hard to see anyone mustering the will to undo this project, which is being paid for with the blood of people like Laken Hope Riley. ◆

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