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Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is supporting an immigration bill named after Georgia college student Laken Riley, who was found dead on the University of Georgia campus at the hands of an illegal immigrant. The bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain illegal immigrants who have committed specific crimes. Tester initially helped block the legislation but has now expressed his support after hearing from law enforcement officers in Montana. Despite this support, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is unlikely to bring the Laken Riley Act to the floor for a standalone vote. Republican lawmakers have criticized Tester for his previous opposition to immigration-related measures and accused him of only now backing the bill due to his challenging re-election campaign.

The death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, has received national attention and sparked debate over strengthening the southern border and tightening U.S. immigration policy. Republicans forced a vote on a modified version of the Laken Riley Act as an amendment to a spending package, which was rejected along party lines with Tester voting against it. Questions have been raised about Tester’s motives behind supporting the bill now, with some suggesting it may be a strategy to gain support in his tough re-election battle in Montana. Tester’s opponents have accused him of flip-flopping on the issue and criticized his previous votes in support of what they called “open-border policies.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and other Republicans have been vocal in their criticism of Tester, alleging that he has been reluctant to vote on immigration-related measures because of his electoral vulnerability. Despite these claims, Tester’s camp maintains that his support for the Laken Riley bill has been consistent, and that allegations of a reversal in stance are false. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has labeled Tester as “Two-Faced” and accused him of aligning himself with Joe Biden’s open borders agenda. The race in Montana between Tester and his Republican opponent is considered one of the most competitive in the country, with political analysts categorizing it as a “Toss Up.”

Tester’s decision to support the Laken Riley Act has sparked controversy and debate over his motives and consistency on immigration issues. Some critics view his backing of the bill as a political move to gain support in his re-election campaign, while others question his commitment to border security given his past votes on related measures. Tester’s camp maintains that he has consistently supported the bill and that accusations of a change in stance are unfounded. Ultimately, the fate of the Laken Riley Act remains uncertain, with Senate Majority Leader Schumer unlikely to bring it to the floor for a standalone vote. As the race in Montana heats up, Tester’s stance on immigration policy will likely continue to be a key issue in his campaign.

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