FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mollie Tibbetts’ Death Should Not Be Used as an Anti-Immigration Talking Point

The ongoing search for Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old college student from Brooklyn, Iowa who went missing in July, came to a devastating end on August 21 when police found her body in a cornfield. Authorities charged 24-year-old undocumented immigrant Cristhian Rivera with her murder.

Tibbetts’ case—and other past cases like it— easily capture the attention of the American public. Mollie Tibbetts was a white, beautiful, young college student who was taken from a sleepy, rural town that could be a stand-in for a number of small American towns

For weeks, Tibbetts’ bubbly, smiling face was scattered across social media feeds as her search reached desperate levels. For many of us, she seemed like someone we knew – a young girl who loved running, Harry Potter, and her family Perhaps she reminded you of your daughter, sister or friend.  Having recently graduated college myself, I couldn’t help but relate to Tibbetts. She seemed like someone I would have been friends. When I heard about her death, I was hurt but took solace knowing that Tibbetts’ family could shrink away from the spotlight and grieve in peace now that the grueling search was over.

Yet her family was not treated with such decency.

Hours after authorities charged Cristhian Bahena Rivera—an illegal immigrant—with first-degree murder for the death of Mollie Tibbetts, certain right-wing news outlets like Fox News and Breitbart began spinning her story, turning her death into a rally cry for stronger border security and mass deportation of illegals. As the news cycle progressed, headlines became more fixated on the immigrant status of her killer than the loss of the young woman.

“Illegal immigration kills Americans,” conservative pundit Tomi Lahren said on Fox News. “It’s Mollie Tibbetts (today), and it could be your daughter, your sister, your friend tomorrow.”

Some in far-right circles on Twitter are trying to turn Tibbetts into a martyr for their anti-immigrant cause. President Trump was also quick to politicize her death, alluding to it during his rally in West Virginia:

“You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly from Mexico, and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman,” Trump said. “It should’ve never happened. Illegally in our country. We’ve had a huge impact, but the laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace.”

This is shameful. Not only is right-wing media exploiting the death of a young girl for its own interests, but even the president is peddling claims about immigrants that are false and have been proven so time and time again.

In 2013, Pew Research Center found that immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes compared to U.S.-born citizens. Similarly, in 2018, the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute concluded that at the incarceration rate for native-born Americans is 1.53 percent, compared to 0.85 percent for undocumented immigrants and 0.47 percent for legal immigrants.

And in Texas (the only state to keep record of the number of convictions of illegal immigrants for specific crimes), the rate of homicide  convictions per 100,000 illegal immigrants was 44 percent lower than  that of native-born Americans in 2016.

So unlike what Tomi Lahren would have you believe, immigrants are not more dangerous or more likely to be criminals than anyone else. They are actually less likely to end up behind bars compared to their native-born peers.

Yes, the death of Molly Tibbetts is awful—and yes, her killer may have been an illegal immigrant. But one atrocious crime committed at the hands of one illegal immigrant cannot and should not be used as proof that all immigrants dangerous. The truth is that most immigrants come here to create better lives for themselves, and they are usually not criminals who wish to do you harm.

What is most unfortunate about this story is that the death of Mollie Tibbetts is being reduced to a talking point in the immigration debate. Mollie Tibbetts should not be remembered for how she died or for who killed her, but for how she lived and who she was.

More articles by:

Kayla Stetzel is a recent college graduate and a Young Voices contributor. Follow her on Twitter at @KaylaStetzel.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail