Covenant House denies sponsoring migrant accused of GA murder after GOP lawmaker's accusation

Jose Ibarra is accused of killing 22-year-old Laken Riley

 A nonprofit charity is denying sponsoring a man who was recently charged with killing a Georgia nursing student after a GOP lawmaker accused the group of letting him use its federally funded resources after he entered the U.S. illegally and before he allegedly committed the crime.

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, sent a letter to Covenant House, a national network of youth homeless shelters, claiming to have seen Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) documents that say Jose Ibarra, 26, used a New York facility as his sponsor address after he crossed the border in September 2022. 

Gooden questioned whether Covenant House was properly vetting people who came through its doors, whether Ibarra lied about allegedly staying there, and if the organization was encouraging migrants to use its address on federal forms.

Covenant House told Fox News Digital it did not sponsor Ibarra and denied being contacted by federal authorities about him.


Lance Gooden

Rep. Lance Gooden is demanding more information from the nonprofit youth shelter organization Covenant House, accusing one of its facilities of housing Jose Ibarra, who is charged with killing a Georgia nursing student. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images | Clarke County Sheriffs Office)

"Covenant House does not sponsor the entry of any migrants into the United States. It is neither a policy nor a practice. Covenant House New York did not sponsor Jose Antonio Ibarra’s entry into the country and has not done so for any other person," a spokesperson said.

"We do not know how our address came to be on his form, but there have been and continue to be instances when our address is given at the border. We have not been contacted by ICE/DHS regarding this matter, nor have we ever been contacted by them about the use of Covenant House’s name on a form at the border."

Gooden wrote to Covenant House CEO Bill Bedrossian earlier Tuesday, "According to CBP documents, after illegally crossing into El Paso, Jose Antonio Ibarra provided The Covenant House, a federally funded NGO in New York, as his sponsor address. These NGOs receive hundreds of millions in taxpayer funding per year through a left-wing loophole designed to circumvent a federal law that prevents tax dollars from funding illegal immigration."

"I have been fighting to hold NGOs like Covenant House accountable for years. Their usage of federal funds to traffic millions of migrants is unacceptable and has now become deadly."


A general view of the walking trail along Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens, Georgia

A general view of the walking trail along Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was found dead along the trail. (Mark Sims for Fox News Digital)

Ibarra is charged with murdering 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley, who was killed while jogging at the nearby campus of the University of Georgia.

Her death has sparked renewed scrutiny over how effectively U.S. officials are evaluating migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border before granting entry, primarily to await immigration court proceedings.

In his letter, Gooden asked Covenant House how long Ibarra had stayed at its facility, if he did, and whether Covenant House coordinates with groups in Mexico to share its address with people trying to enter the U.S. 


Georgia nursing students attend Laken Riley vigil

Augusta University students, in blue, and University of Georgia students gather at the Tate Plaza on the UGA campus in Athens, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, to pay tribute to Laken Riley. (Nell Carroll/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

"Instead of prioritizing the safety and security of American citizens, the Biden administration has chosen to prioritize the interests of illegal immigrants, providing them with sanctuary and support at the expense of taxpayers," Gooden wrote. 

"Covenant House and other federally funded NGOs must provide accountability and allow oversight from Congress. Failure to do so will result in swift action in the form of subpoenas."

Gooden's letter does not indicate when Ibarra supposedly used the Covenant House address in New York. It's also not uncommon for migrants who first arrive in the U.S. to list a shelter as their place of residence. 

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