Jim Banks calls on Biden to ‘publicly acknowledge’ Laken Riley at SOTU

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FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., penned a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday, calling on him to acknowledge the death of Georgia college student Laken Riley during his State of the Union address Thursday night. 

Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University, was killed last month and the suspect charged in relation to her death is Jose Ibarra, who was found to have illegally immigrated into the U.S. in 2022. 

“At just six years old, Laken knew she wanted to be a nurse so she could help people. She was living her dream until it was shattered by Joe Biden’s wide open border,” Banks told Fox News Digital in a statement. “This was a totally avoidable tragedy. President Biden owes it to her family and the American people to say her name.”

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student, was found dead near a lake on the University of Georgia campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Laken Riley/Facebook)

Banks implored Biden in the letter to “publicly acknowledge the Riley family’s tragedy” by speaking about their daughter Laken’s death during the annual address to Congress. 

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The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

“As Commander-in-Chief, it is your duty to protect American citizens, and this tragedy highlights the urgent need to address the surge in crime resulting from your negligence at our southern border,” Banks wrote. 

The Indiana Republican, currently running for the Senate seat being vacated in 2025 by Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., further listed what he considered Biden’s failures on the issues of the southern border and immigration. Banks noted Biden’s reversals of Trump-era policies such as “Remain in Mexico,” Title 42, and the building of a border wall. 

“Your failure to publicly acknowledge this tragedy is unacceptable,” Banks added. 

Last week, the White House provided a statement to Fox News Digital regarding Riley’s death. “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley,” a spokesperson said. “People should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be guilty. Given this is an active case, we would have to refer you to state law enforcement and ICE.”

Banks during House hearing

Rep. Jim Banks questions witnesses during a House hearing on Feb. 28, 2023, in Washington, D.C. ( Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Biden, himself, has not addressed the death of Riley, despite being asked during a press conference if he bears any responsibility for it following a speech last week. 

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“You have a great opportunity to respect the wishes of Laken Riley’s mother by breaking your silence and saying her name at the upcoming State of the Union address on Thursday, March 7, 2024,” Banks told Biden in the letter. 

Riley’s mother, Allyson Phillips, recently changed her Facebook profile picture to a heart in UGA’s colors of Red and Black, with the hashtag “#SayHerName.”

In addition to asking Biden to acknowledge Riley at his SOTU address, Banks also called on the president to “take swift and decisive action to secure the border. You can prevent further tragedies and ensure a safer future for all Americans.”

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