Death of Mollie Tibbetts Sparks Immigration Debate

08.22.18

Following the arrest of an undocumented immigrant accused of killing college student Mollie Tibbetts, Republican lawmakers are blaming immigration policies, and a lack of border security, for this murder.

Tibbetts, 20, who vanished on July 18, was found dead Tuesday in a cornfield in Iowa. She was last seen more than five weeks ago while jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa. Police have charged the suspect, 24- year-old Christhian Bahena Rivera, with first-degree murder. According to authorities, Rivera got out of his car, began to chase Tibbetts on foot before he “blacked out;” ultimately killing her and hiding her body in the middle of a cornfield.

The motive as to why Rivera killed Tibbetts is still unclear, and there are still many more questions to be answered, but a fierce online debate on the national immigration law has already begun. 

But many others say the story is being skewed across media to promote anti-immigrant beliefs. Many Conservative and Republican people online are claiming Mollie Tibbett’s death is a result of illegal immigration rather than the result of Rivera’s actions. This is causing a huge debate online, so big that even Mollie Tibbett’s family has responded.

This is a cycle we’ve seen before: when someone is killed by an undocumented immigrant, liberals and conservatives start playing this blame game. The GOP often uses these incidents to promote anti-immigration laws, while liberals usually blame the murderer. A similar conversation was had for the 2015 murder of Kate Steinle. Trump used Steinle’s death in San Francisco as an argument against sanctuary cities and immigration. Now, people are using Tibbett’s death to say all immigrants are the same. One Twitter user pointed out the problem with generalizing:

There’s also more than one lens through which to view the case.

Not to mention a dark irony: the accused, who passed an E-Verify test which is often used by farms to confirm the documentation status of workers, worked on a farm owned by the family of a prominent member of Iowa’s Republican Party.

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