The family of the 20-year-old Iowa college student murdered by an alleged undocumented immigrant while out jogging has reiterated that they would rather not her death become political football. During a funeral service for Mollie Tibbetts held on Sunday in her home town of Brooklyn Iowa, her father issued direct rebuke to those who would use the occasion of his daughter’s death to fan the embers of nativism.
Shortly after authorities in Iowa named Cristhian Bahena Rivera as the suspect in Mollie’s death the homicide turned into a political weight.
Seizing on the fact that the 24-year-old Rivera, is a Mexican national who authorities said was in the country illegally, many Republicans, from President Trump on down, used the death to advocate for harsher immigration laws.
The Tibbetts family however, have struck a different note, even in the emotionally tense days immediately following the confirmation of her death last week, although they have refrained from issuing a direct rebuked to the president.
Mollie’s dad Rob Tibbetts, seen at a press conference announcing a “Bring Mollie Tibbetts Home Safe Reward Fund” Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Like the rest of his family, he would rather not condemn the entire Hispanic community for the transgressions of one man
During the emotional eulogy her father, Rob Tibbetts, gave during her funeral Sunday, he highlighted his positive feelings for the local Hispanic community.
“The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register.
Recalling that during the nearly six weeks he spent in Iowa while authorities searched for his daughter, he ate at a number of Mexican restaurants. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”
The line drew applause from the crowd of more than 1,000, the Register reported, and stood in contrast to the heated political debate about immigration as it related to Tibbetts’s death.
Cristhian Rivera [right] has been charged with murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts [left]
Although law enforcement officials said Rivera was undocumented, a lawyer who represented him at a hearing last week said that he was in the country legally. But the representatives from the farm where he worked said that the state photo ID and Social Security card that Rivera gave them when he applied to the job a few years ago were false.
Trump referred to Tibbetts’s death in a speech he gave on the day of the disclosure that her body was found, and the White House continued to push the sentiment the next day, in the form of statements made by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and a video of Trump calling for a border wall and saying that Tibbetts had been “permanently separated from her family.” Republican officials from Iowa, such as Gov. Kim Reynolds and both of the state’s senators, have also criticized the country’s immigration laws.
Last week, Tibbetts’s aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, released a statement that asked people to remember that “Evil comes in EVERY color.”
Rob Tibbetts, meanwhile, asked mourners to celebrate his daughter.
“Today, we need to turn the page. We’re at the end of a long ordeal,” he said. “But we need to turn toward life, Mollie’s life, because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero,” Rob Tibbetts said celebrating his daughter’s life