Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Immigrants shouldn’t be blamed for Mollie Tibbetts’ death

The father of Mollie Tibbetts, an Iowa college student murdered while running last month, wrote in an opinion piece Saturday that his daughter’s death should not be exploited to promote a racist agenda.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker suspected of illegally immigrating from Mexico, was charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ death. Politicians have since used the arrest to push for immigration reform, claiming the presence of illegal immigrants poses a threat to American families.

Tibbetts’ father wrote in a column for The Des Moines Register that his daughter would not want to be used as a pawn to promote hate against Mexican immigrants — “To knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag,” he wrote.

Donald Trump Jr. published an opinion piece in the same paper a day earlier blaming democrats for Tibbetts’ death, claiming liberals downplayed Rivera’s “illegal alien” status. Tibbetts’ death, given its circumstances, couldn’t have come at a better time for the Trump administration. In the upcoming midterm elections, state elections could lead to new liberal legislation. Using Tibbetts’ death to spread anti-immigrant propaganda will minimize Trump’s losses in the midterm elections.

Iowa residents are already falling into the trap. Iowa’s governor Kim Reynolds released a statement saying a “broken immigration” was at fault for allowing Rivera, a “predator,” to live among us. Residents from Tibbetts’ hometown told The New York Times they were frustrated to hear Rivera entered the country illegally, one saying she would still be alive with stricter immigration laws.

It sometimes seems that those who benefit most from liberal policy are those who reject it most vehemently. Iowa’s agriculture depends on immigrant labor, as farmers there rely on immigrants to tend crops and livestock. Iowa residents cannot use the labor of immigrants for their benefit and turn the other cheek when immigrants are targeted in response to the crime of one individual.

No individual person can reflect an entire population. If you don’t believe the actions of one white supremacist reflect the thoughts and beliefs of all white people, you shouldn’t feel the same for any other race. And if you do, you’re racist. It’s as simple as that. Those who make it more complicated are pursuing a racist agenda, whether they know it or not.

Tibbetts’ murder doesn’t signify a danger of illegal immigrants threatening American safety — rather, it reminds us of the danger of running as a woman. Any female runner can tell you a story about a time she was harassed while running, and it’s not unheard of for a woman to go out for a run and never come back.

When the culprit is white, though, the crime isn’t politicized. The killer is called a lone wolf. Responders are encouraged to stick to thoughts and prayers rather than use the crime to prevent future incidents from occurring.

Women who run, especially, should know that this issue is about toxic masculinity. When girls are murdered for rejecting boys at prom, it’s apparent that Tibbetts’ murder could have happened no matter Rivera’s immigration status. The identity of the killer only seems to matter if they are an immigrant or person of color.

A crime can be used as a warning to prevent future incidents from occurring. However, no statistical evidence shows that illegal immigrants pose a greater threat to women’s safety than a man from any other demographic.

Politicizing the death of a woman — who didn’t have a political presence — in order to spread this propaganda is disrespectful. Tibbetts’ parents should not have to live with the knowledge that the death of their daughter may have been used to further a racist agenda that they knew she wanted no part of.

One Comment

  1. Mollie Tibbett’s blood is on the hands of a federal government that for years has sent the message that it is not serious about defending our sovereignty. Her father’s attitude toward protecting that sovereignty is a huge part of this problem. He should be ashamed of himself for refusing to put the blame where it belongs.