After 34 days since the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts after she went for a jog and never came back to her boyfriend's home, investigators found the body of the 20-year-old University of Iowa student in a cornfield and arrested Cristhian Bahena Rivera for murdering her. In less than a day, President Donald Trump and other GOP members politicized her untimely death to bolster immigration reform—despite the family members’ wishes against it. According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Rivera is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
In a tweeted video message, Trump said, “Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman, is now permanently separated from her family. A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her. We need the wall. We need our immigration laws changed. We need our border laws changed.”
The president is expected to continue to push immigration as a prevailing issue in courting voters ahead of November’s midterm elections. In Iowa, Republicans are defending two congressional seats that Democrats believe they can win.
Suspect Worked on Farm Owned by Republican
Rivera, the murder suspect, has lived in the area between four and seven years. He had worked for four years at an Iowa dairy farm that Iowa Republican Craig Lang partly owned.
When Rivera applied for the farm job, he provided a state ID and social security card that was verified through the Social Security Administration’s verification system, claimed Dane Lang, the co-owner and manager of Yarrabee Farms. But, those forms of ID were not of Rivera.
However, Rivera’s lawyer, Allan M. Richards, disputed the government’s claims that his client was in the country illegally. He also added that the president’s comments highlighting his immigration status could prejudice future jurors.
Is Violence by Illegal Immigrants a Problem?
While Trump assumes that violence inflicted by illegal immigrants is a national crisis, the truth is that immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts.
According to the Pew Research Center, first-generation immigrants are considerably less likely to commit a crime. A 2015 report by the American Immigration Council, native-born Americans are more likely to go to prison compared to Central American immigrants—and recent increases in immigration occurred as crime actually reduced in the country.
Although the research available doesn’t distinguish between documented and undocumented status, immigrants generally come to the United States for the same reasons—to improve their lives.