Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz, a Democrat, held a heated press conference and faced severe criticism for the city’s policies on immigration.

The brutal killing of 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, an Augusta University College of Nursing student, horrified the Georgia community last week.

Horrific Details Emerge In Killing Of Georgia Nursing Student, Affidavit Alleges Skull Was ‘Disfigured’

Protestors clashed with Girtz during the press conference, calling him a "liar" and saying he has "blood on his hands" for the city's sanctuary policies.

Girtz insisted Athens is not a sanctuary city, but the crowd wasn't buying it.

"Liar! Liar! Liar!" crowd members shouted.

"We are here to listen," Girtz commented.

"You're the one who is guilty. You have blood on your hands for this murder," an audience member said.

"Many of the aspects that are ascribed sanctuary cities are things that are disallowed by Georgia law," Girtz said.

"We contribute a document every year to the Georgia Department of Audits indicating that we do not correspond to these definitions under state law," he continued.

The crowd wasn't buying it.

"You need to resign!" an audience member said.


"Citizens of Athens-Clarke County did not hold back this morning when Mayor Kelly Girtz doubled down on his claim that Athens is not a sanctuary city.   They’re right. Athens does have sanctuary policies. And the receipts are everywhere," former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said.

"In 2019, the Athens City Council passed a resolution 'to foster a community where individuals and families of all statuses feel safe,' so that 'all people, including those WITHOUT documentation, feel welcome and comfortable,'" she added.

"Hear it from Mayor Girtz himself," she commented.


In another clip, Girtz asserted there is no connection between crime and illegal immigration.

He also deflected to criticize Donald Trump for speaking in "vile terms" about people who were foreign born.

The crowd wasn't buying it.

"This is an invasion!" one audience member shouted.


NBC News reports:

With Athens increasingly becoming an immigration flashpoint, Girtz warned "against conflating immigration and crime."

"Responsibility for this crime rests solely on the perpetrator," the mayor, a Democrat, said in relation to Riley's killing.

Local governments in Georgia are required by state law to certify that they’re cooperating with federal immigration officials in order to get state funding. However, cities and counties can limit how closely their law enforcement authorities work with federal immigration agencies.

Athens and Clarke County authorities have said they check detainees’ criminal history and hold anyone with outstanding warrants, but do not keep unauthorized immigrants jailed if they have no criminal history.


From the New York Post:

Athens does not have an official sanctuary city policy, but Girtz has come under fire for what critics call a soft stance on immigration, including signing a 2019 city resolution that declared the county “is welcoming to people from all lands and backgrounds.”

On Wednesday, the mayor defended his stance over the shouts of the hecklers, attempting to dismiss what he described as “the notion of a sanctuary city” on his turf.

“There is no legislation from this government that’s created sanctuary city status,” Girtz said.

“Trauma affects us all,” he added. “And I understand in the wake of a great tragedy like this, we are all deeply hurt and everybody expresses their hurt differently.”

The exchange came in the heated climate stemming from Riley’s vicious beating death on the University of Georgia campus on Feb. 22. Venezuelan national Jose Antonio Ibarra has been charged in the crime.

US Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials said Ibarra entered the country illegally in 2022, but was released pending “future proceedings.”

Join The Conversation. Leave a Comment.

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. If a comment is spam, instead of replying to it please click the ∨ icon below and to the right of that comment. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.