Biden Shrugs Off ‘Illegal’ Remark That Drew Democrats’ Ire

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden brushed off criticism after referring to the alleged killer of a Georgia woman as an “illegal” during his State of the Union address.

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Biden, asked about the incident Friday by reporters before traveling to a campaign event in Philadelphia, said the murder suspect was “technically not supposed to be there.”

The president came under fire from fellow Democrats and immigrant-rights activists following the unscripted moment Thursday night, which occurred when Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled Biden mid-speech.

Greene shouted at Biden to say the name of Laken Riley, a nursing student who police say was killed by a Venezuelan migrant who entered the country illegally but was released on parole. Biden appeared prepared for the possible interjection, and held up a button with Riley’s name on it.

“An innocent young woman who was killed,” Biden said, holding up a pin bearing Riley’s name. Greene was seen handing Biden a pin as he walked down the aisle of the House chamber ahead of his speech.

“By an illegal,” Greene shouted back.

“By an illegal. That’s right,” Biden said, adding that if Republicans were concerned, they should pass the bipartisan border security bill they rejected.

Read More: Biden Outlines Vision, Hits Trump: State of the Union Takeaways

“I would respectfully suggest my Republican friends owe it to the American people,” he continued. “Get this bill done. We need to act now.”

Some Democratic members of Congress after the speech criticized Biden for using the word “illegal” as a noun, which activist groups say demonizes and dehumanizes migrants.

“As a proud immigrant, I’m extremely disappointed to hear President Biden use the word ‘illegal,’” Representative Chuy Garcia, an Illinois Democrat, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Let me be clear: No human being is illegal,” Ilhan Omar, a Democratic representative from Minnesota, posted.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden was “responding to what was being hurled at him, as you all cover, and he was responding to that moment and that exchange.” She rejected the notion Biden had denigrated immigrants.

“The president spoke to the nation obviously last night very clearly about not demonizing immigrants. He talked about the story of our country and families seeking safety and opportunity in a place of possibilities,” Jean-Pierre said.

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