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

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

Collins, who represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, where the 22-year-old nursing student is accused of being murdered, told X on Wednesday that his office had extended an invitation, “but understandably, they have chosen to stay home as they grieve the loss of their daughter.”

It is unknown whether Collins’ reputation for the wilder side of politics played a role in his choice to decline the invitation—he is already under fire for his response to an antisemitic post on X that targeted a Washington Post reporter for being Jewish.

He also publicly supports Texas’ use of razor wire on the border and caused outrage last month when 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 violates X’s guidelines, according to the platform, but it will remain visible due to public interest.

The Daily Beast has contacted Laken’s parents and Collins’ office for comment.

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Riley’s father, John Phillips, praised her as “an amazing daughter, sister, friend, and overall person” in a GoFundMe statement posted on February 27. Her devotion to the Lord was evident in all aspects of her life. She will be missed every day, but we intend to celebrate her life in a significant way going ahead.”

Riley’s body was discovered unconscious with “visible injuries” on the University of Georgia campus in February. Jose Ibarra, a 26-year-old Venezuelan male, was later detained. Police said it was a “crime of opportunity,” and Ibarra is charged with criminal murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.

Collins announced on Thursday that he will honor Riley by keeping his guest seat unfilled during the presidential address. He further stated that the empty seat will be dedicated to “all American victims of illegal alien crime.”

Republican senators have been vociferous in their fury over the murder, using the incident to blame the Biden administration for border policies that allow illegal immigrants into the country. Collins launched the Laken Riley Act on Monday, which, if passed, would allow states to avoid federal immigration restrictions 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,” he said.

Lindsay Williams, an ICE spokesperson, confirmed in an earlier statement to The Daily Beast that the suspect illegally entered the United States 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 apprehended one year later. “He was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued,” he said.

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Jimmy Clyde
Jimmy Clyde
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