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Manhunt, Murder, and Immigration?

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How the murder of a young college female turned into a divisive political battle (and why it shouldn’t have).

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

The Story

If you have been on Facebook or paying attention to the US News in the past few weeks, then you have undoubtedly heard the name Mollie Tibbetts on several different occasions. Mollie Tibbetts was a 20 year old college student from the rural town of Brooklyn, Iowa. In the middle of July, she was reported missing after she did not show up for work. At that point, she was last seen going on a jog the previous evening, during which she seemingly disappeared.

This event triggered a regional search for Mollie Tibbetts and a manhunt for her potential captor. There were thousands of Facebook shares of her disappearance, local search parties, interviews of area residents, and involvement from a variety of law enforcement agencies. The family of Mollie even offered a substantial cash reward for any information that may lead to her safe return. Despite all of these efforts, Tibbetts was still missing after weeks and law enforcement had no substantial leads; that is until late August.

After conducting more than 200 interviews and searching thousands of acres of local farmland, investigators finally got the lead they needed. After reviewing hours of security camera footage from a local resident, investigators at last found footage showing Mollie Tibbetts on her evening jog. What they also found was footage of a car that happened to be following her close behind. Through analysis of the vehicle and its’ driving habits, law enforcement tracked down the owner of the vehicle: a 24 year old Mexican man named Cristhian Rivera.

On August 21st, Rivera lead investigators to a cornfield, where he buried Mollie Tibbetts’ body under corn stalks and brush. He confessed to following Tibbetts with his car and then proceeding to follow her on foot. At this point, Tibbetts became frightened and threatened to call the police. Rivera, who says he blacked out, attacked Tibbetts and placed her in the trunk of his car. Rivera then proceeded to take the body of Tibbetts out into the country, where he buried her in the cornfield. Soon after Rivera’s arrest, investigators discovered that he was actually an illegal immigrant from Mexico. This fact spurred a political battle that still has not ended more than a couple weeks later.

The Aftermath

Immediately following the arrest of Riviera, President Trump decided to voice his opinion on the matter. He started his rally in Charleston, West Virginia by calling the United State’s immigration laws “a disgrace” and highlighting only the fact that the murder was done by an illegal immigrant, rather than offering sympathy to the family. Trump then proceeded to use the event as rhetoric to support his building of “the wall”.

Soon after these comments by Trump, politicians such as Tom Cotton, Kim Reynolds and Joni Ernst all followed suit: using the murder to attack Democrats about the “broken” US immigration system. The debate over immigration has not ceased since the time of Rivera’s arrest, but rather than achieve the intended objective, it has done nothing more that overshadow a tragedy. The divisive political battle has now come to the point where family members of Mollie Tibbetts have had no option other than to speak out against these politicians.

An Overshadowed Tragedy

Republican or Democrat, the murder of Mollie Tibbetts was an entirely unfortunate circumstance. It was a calamity that affected not only the family of Mollie Tibbetts, but also her friends, community, and all of those involved in her search. Using such a tragedy as rhetoric to support a political agenda is wrong, no matter what side of the spectrum you stand on. This rhetoric became so widely publicized, that Tibbett’s own father had to speak out against the aforementioned politicians, asking them to “allow our family to grieve in piece and with dignity” and to “please leave us out of your debate”. It is unfortunate for a father who just lost his daughter to have to shut down public debate so that his own family can grieve. An evil act can be committed by a person of any creed or color.

The murder of Mollie Tibbetts should not be, and never should have been, a political issue.

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