Brother of Suspect in Laken Riley Killing Is a Case Study of Biden Non-Enforcement

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 11, 2024
Diego Ibarra
Diego Ibarra

The arrest of Jose Ibarra — a Venezuelan national released by DHS after crossing the Southwest border illegally — in the killing of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley has focused public attention on migrant crime. But the rap sheet of his brother, Diego Ibarra, is a case study of immigration non-enforcement in the United States under the Biden administration: two illegal entries, assault on a Border Patrol officer, DUI (methamphetamine and THC) and a subsequent failure to appear, two shoplifting charges, cutting off his ankle monitor to abscond from ATD, a domestic assault investigation, and proffering a fake green card to a police officer, all in less than a year.

“Memorandum of Facts in Support of Government’s Motion for Detention”. As noted in my earlier post on Riley’s murder, Diego Ibarra was arrested by the cops in Athens, Ga. during the search for her killer because he matched the description of the suspect, after which he gave the arresting officer a fake green card (which he also used to get a job at the University of Georgia — “UGA”) to establish his identity.

Apparently, the authorities had the good sense to prosecute Ibarra federally following that arrest under 18 U.S.C. § 1546, possession of an “alien registration receipt card”, a crime that carries with it a 10-year sentence.

I say “good sense” because, according to the “Memorandum of Facts in Support of Government’s Motion for Detention”, the U.S. attorney’s office request to keep Ibarra in pre-trial custody, he had racked up a slate of state offenses that didn’t appear to slow him down any. That said, his first charge should have been federal, except it wasn’t.

Initial Illegal Entry. According to that memo, Ibarra was apprehended by Border Patrol agents after entering the United States illegally at Eagle Pass, Texas, on April 3, 2023. He “was returned to Mexico by CBP that same day”, suggesting he was expelled under Title 42 (which ended five weeks later).

Second Illegal Entry and Assault. When Ibarra was spotted reentering with four other illegal entrants by a CBP camera on April 30, 2023, near El Paso, Texas, two Border Patrol agents responded, and approached him and a second illegal migrant, Jose Lozado-Salas.

When one of the agents attempted to handcuff Lozado-Salas, the alien punched the agent in the face. The other agent tried to grab Ibarra, at which point Ibarra grabbed the agent’s radio and tossed it into a nearby yard. Ibarra then tried to bite the agent during the ensuing scuffle. This went on for about four minutes before National Guard troops appeared and helped the agents subdue the duo.

Once in custody, Ibarra complained of chest pains and was sent to the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. There, he was interviewed by an FBI agent, who “documented in his official report that Ibarra admitted to resisting arrest and attempting to avoid apprehension ‘at any cost’”.

Despite this, he was not prosecuted for either assault on a federal officer (a misdemeanor) or illegal reentry (a felony).

Absconding from ATD. Instead, Ibarra was released on an “alternative to detention” (ATD), in his case, an ankle monitor. Keep in mind that under section 235(b) of the INA, he was subject to mandatory detention, but in any event, as a removable alien he could only be released if he proved both that he was neither a danger to others nor a flight risk. His April 30 arrest above clearly demonstrates that he would have failed on both counts.

He didn’t remain on ATD for long, however, apparently cutting off his ankle monitor, which was discovered on the side of the road in Littleton, Colo. — more than 600 miles from El Paso. On May 25, 2023, ICE removed him from ATD and listed him as an absconder.

DUI — Meth and THC. It’s not clear how that ankle monitor ended up in Littleton, because Ibarra himself went to Athens, Ga., where Riley was murdered.

It was there on the night of September 24, 2023, that he was arrested by two officers from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD) for driving 80 miles per hour in a 40-mile zone.

Why two officers? Because when the first one activated his lights, Ibarra failed to respond, only stopping when a second squad car pulled in front of him. As the memo explains, “Ibarra had to be forcefully removed from the vehicle as he struggled with the officer.”

A search of the vehicle revealed an open can of beer in the center console, and while Ibarra initially contended that he had only consumed a single beer, he eventually fessed up to having had seven.

That was a curious admission, because when his subsequent blood sample was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the lab concluded that he didn’t have any alcohol in his system at all — though he did test positive for methamphetamine and tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”, the main psychoactive element in marijuana).

He was booked into the county jail, charged with (among other things) driving under the influence (DUI), speeding, and driving without a license, and thereafter released.

Consistent with his prior pattern of behavior, he blew off his court date and a warrant was thereafter issued for his arrest.

Domestic Incident. Two days after his DUI arrest, on September 26, ACCPD officers were called to an Athens apartment in response to a call from a woman identified only as “J.G.”

J.G. told police that her boyfriend — Ibarra — had taken her cell phone from her, and that she had bit him in the chest to get it back. In response, she claimed, Ibarra slapped her in the face.

Unable to determine who was the “primary aggressor” in the incident, the cops apparently left well enough alone.

First Shoplifting Arrest. Just over a month later, on October 27, 2023, ACCPD officers were called to a reported shoplifting incident at an Athens-area Walmart involving two males. As the memo explains:

The two males were observed stuffing items into bookbags and boarding a bus near the Walmart. An off-duty officer was able to locate the two males, who were identified as Diego Ibarra and his brother, Jose Ibarra (“Jose”). Inside a bookbag in Jose’s possession, officers located items of food taken from the Walmart. Inside Ibarra’s bookbag, officers located stolen t-shirts, shorts, hoodies, and a jacket.

The brothers were cited for shoplifting more than $200 worth of merchandise, but an officer helpfully advised the duo about “a pre-arrest diversion program”, and they were released.

Second Shoplifting Arrest. Ibarra must have really liked that particular Walmart, because just over six weeks later, on December 8, 2023, a loss-prevention officer spotted him there loading two t-shirts into his bag and attempting to leave.

The cops were called again, and this time Ibarra was placed under arrest for shoplifting and for skipping court for the DUI change. Nonetheless, he was apparently released again because he was free on February 23 when he was arrested as a suspect in Riley’s killing.

February 23 Arrest and Charges for Possession of a Fake Green Card. As the memo details that arrest:

On February 23, 2024, around 8:30 a.m., ACCPD Sgt. Tim Johnson was patrolling the Argo Apartment Community and observed a Hispanic male who was similar in appearance to the man in the surveillance photo [of the suspect in the killing] and was wearing an “an identical hat.”

Somehow, with his rather checkered record, Ibarra had managed to secure a job in food services at UGA, and when Sgt. Johnson approached him, the only identification he had was his UGA employee nametag that read “Diego”.

Sgt. Johnson accompanied Ibarra to his apartment, and it was there the suspect handed the officer a green card containing his photograph and bearing the name “Diego Jose Ibarra”. Both the poor quality of the document and the fact that it contained two different dates of birth tipped Sgt. Johnson off to the fact that the green card was bogus, a fact that ICE later confirmed.

He was thereafter charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia with possessing a fake green card, and although the complaint has not been made public, that offense is a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 1546 (“fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents”), carrying a possible 10-year sentence.

The feds gave him the once over in custody, and determined that both his tattoos and pictures from his social media history suggested he was a member of Tren de Aragua (TdA), a Venezuelan gang that, as the memo explains, “has been involved in recent violent confrontations with law enforcement and civilian victims in New York and elsewhere throughout the United States”.

Apparently, TdA members sport Chicago Bulls gear “even if they have no connection to Chicago or the Bulls”, and “Ibarra has several photos of himself and others on his social media accounts wearing Chicago Bulls attire.”

Five-pointed crown tattoos are also a marker of TdA membership, and Ibarra has a prominent one on his neck just below his left ear. Not surprisingly, he also has the obligatory teardrop tattoo below his right eye.

Then, there is this, again from the memo:

It is common in the gang culture to openly display photographs of firearms. It is a violation of federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5)(A) for a noncitizen, such as Ibarra, to possess a firearm in the United States. Ibarra posted photos to his social media accounts on February 7, 2024, holding what appears to be a firearm. Additionally, Ibarra posted an image of what appears to be a Glock and a Smith & Wesson pistol positioned next to an open box of ammunition.

In any event, as the global periodical El Pais explains:

Tren de Aragua originated in the Tocorón Penitentiary Center in the Venezuelan state of Aragua around 15 years ago. It has since expanded across Latin America, particularly in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Chile.


Tren de Aragua expanded to Chile in 2021, and has since been implicated in kidnappings, murders, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and torture.

Apparently, they have now expanded their reach into the United States, including one of the most unlikely places imaginable — the bucolic college town of Athens, Ga.

The Mayorkas Enforcement “Guidelines”. On September 30, 2021, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued his own memo, this one captioned “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law”.

Those guidelines identify three “priorities” for ICE enforcement action: (1) “threats to national security” (terrorists and spies); (2) threats to public safety (serious criminals); and (3) “threats to border security” (aliens apprehended entering the United States on or after November 1, 2020).

Ibarra plainly met the latter two enforcement priorities, but as Mayorkas made clear in those guidelines:

The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country's well-being require it.

One could argue that “justice and our country’s well-being” required both Ibarra brothers to be deported, but that’s beside the point. Those guidelines require ICE officers to weigh a series of “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors in making that discretion determination, each of which — in the case of a criminal like Diego Ibarra — involves examining his criminal history.

Before an alien enters legally, the State Department requires the alien to present documentation from the local authorities to establish that the applicant does not have a criminal record that would bar him or her from admission.

Aliens who enter illegally, however, skip that step, placing the U.S. government in the position of attempting to determine whether the alien has committed crimes in the past. When it comes to countries like Venezuela, with which the United States has poor diplomatic relations, that task is all but impossible.

Nothing in DOJ’s memorandum of facts suggests that Diego Ibarra has limited his criminal activities to the United States. There was likely a reason that Venezuela didn’t try to keep him for itself.

Assuming that the charges against Jose Ibarra are accurate, the same is likely true for him, too. I have been involved in law enforcement for three decades and have never seen an alien whose first serious crime is killing a random stranger in broad daylight.

Missed Opportunities. All of which brings me to the opportunities law-enforcement — and Biden’s DHS and DOJ in particular — missed that could have kept Diego Ibarra out of the United States.

He should have been prosecuted for illegal entry and assaulting the Border Patrol agent who attempted to arrest him on April 30. Smugglers aside, however, the Biden administration has long eschewed border prosecutions.

Assuming the ACCPD contacted ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) following Diego Ibarra’s September arrest for DUI, or either of his shoplifting arrests, ICE should have gone and arrested him as an absconder.

That’s a big assumption, however, because although Athens-Clarke County denies that it’s a “sanctuary city”, the mayor and county commission passed a resolution in 2019 that states, in part, that the place is “welcoming to people from all lands and backgrounds and strives to foster a community where individuals of all statuses feel safe, are able to prosper, and can breathe free”.

During a February 28 press conference, Mayor Kelly Girtz “caution[ed] against conflating immigration and crime. The data demonstrates that the two are not connected”. I’m not sure about the data, but the facts strongly suggest that in the case of the Ibarra brothers, there’s a pretty real connection between illegal immigration and crime.

Regardless, DHS should have been on the lookout for Ibarra as an absconder, and he plainly had enough touches with the authorities to have left some record that ICE could have pursued. I’m not blaming its officers, however, because between the Mayorkas guidelines and the Biden administration’s border release policies, they probably have to triage their enforcement efforts.

When DHS enforces the law, there’s little connection between immigration and crime, because only aliens without criminal records are allowed in. Thanks to the Biden administration’s non-enforcement policies, however, that’s no longer the case. If you’re looking for a poster boy for the president’s immigration policies, I have one — and he’s wearing a Chicago Bulls hat and sporting a gang tattoo.