Op-Ed: Trump should not use Molly Tibbetts murder to create anti-immigrant propaganda


In an effort to continue his hard line stance against illegal immigration, President Trump is unscrupulously capitalizing on the murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts of Iowa, who was allegedly murdered by an illegal alien from Mexico. Yes, this is a tragedy, a young woman filled with so much promise, cut down in the prime of her life, leaving her family and friends heartbroken and grappling with how to understand such a senseless act.

However, many members of her family have come forward and stated that they did not want Mollie’s death used as a political football. Her aunt Billie Jo Calderwood wrote on Facebook, “Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color.” When Trump was running for president, he categorized Mexicans who illegally cross the U.S. border as drug dealers and rapists.  Then he famously touted how he was going to build a wall to keep these people out and get Mexico to pay for it. That has yet to materialize.

Now the White House has put out a video featuring families whose loved ones were killed by illegal immigrants. It concludes with them stating how they had been “permanently separated” from the person who died. The latter is no doubt a reference to the backlash Trump received as families were being torn apart at American’s southern border with Mexico. Parents were separated from their children as they awaited trial on charges of illegally entering the country. Trump is obviously trying to draw the conclusion that the temporary separation caused by his immigration policies are far less severe than the permanent separation of death caused by the criminality of illegal immigrants.

Police arrested the alleged perpetrator in the Mollie Tibbetts murder, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, and charged him with first-degree murder last week. He led investigators to a cornfield where they discovered what they believe to be Tibbett’s body. The young college student went missing in July after going for an evening jog. Rivera had been in the country between four and seven years. He worked at Yarabee Farms, but gave them a different name when applied for employment.

I think the lesson to be learned here is that while we definitely need immigration reform, including a proper screening process and a pathway to citizenship, we cannot paint every nationality with a broad brush. There are good and bad people in every race, religion and creed. Mollie Tibbetts’ cousin tweeted that her family was not so “small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals.” I think that’s the way we should all be viewing this case.

Here in Queens, we are fortunate to have a diverse melting pot of people and cultures, which make this borough one of the greatest in the world in which to live. There is so much to learn and experience. However, just as with every city, we have crime. It is important to catch those who do wrong regardless of immigration status. I don’t think we should be sending the message that here in American, a nation of immigrants, we are going to dehumanize the undocumented and treat them as outsiders.

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