·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Murder of Iowa College Student Turns Political as Immigration Debate Continues

— August 23, 2018

The murder of an Iowa college student is quickly turning political, after 20-year old Mollie Tibbetts’ killer was revealed to be an illegal immigrant.

During a Wednesday morning session on Fox & Friends, commentator Tomi Lahren laid into illegal immigration. Lahren’s ideals are shared by many on the right, including President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Illegal immigration kills Americans,” Lahren said. “It’s Mollie Tibbetts today, and it could be your daughter, your sister, your friend tomorrow.”

Lahren’s diatribe paid scant attention to any facts or figures which might suggest that illegal immigrants are more likely to partake in violent crime than anyone else in the United States. USA Today notes that data tends to tell another story—that the country’s undocumented are less likely to run afoul of the law than their native-born counterparts.

“There’s 100 years of data from all different sources that all point in the same direction,” said Walter Ewing of the American Immigration Council. “If you don’t believe one study, there’s 10 more behind it that say the same thing.”

However, Ewing admitted that analyzing crime committed by immigrants isn’t an easy task. Local police tend not to register the immigration status of arrestees, making it difficult to draw any conclusion on who’s committing more crime.

The Trump administration has often claimed that illegal immigrants are responsible for local surges in crime, despite U.S. crime rates being near historical lows. Image via U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran. Public domain.

Other researchers have looked into incarceration rates for foreign-born nationals, undocumented aliens and lifelong Americans. The libertarian Cato Institute found that illegal immigrants are imprisoned at a significantly lower rate than citizens, especially after deducting the number locked up for immigration offenses.

But facts and figures seem of little importance to the Trump administration, which has continued to advance an anti-immigrant agenda. Speaking at a Tuesday rally in Charleston, West Virginia, President Trump mentioned the Tibbetts case as yet another example of America’s ‘weak’ immigration laws.

“Should never have happened,” Trump said. “The immigration laws are such a disgrace.”

His approach has been taken up by Iowa Republicans, including Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can to bring justice to Mollie’s killer,” Reynolds said in a Tuesday statement.

Despite the outcry from upper-level Republicans, Reuters notes that conservatives headquartered in competitive districts have kept a lower profile. Lawmakers Rod Blum and David Young both offered their condolences to the Tibbetts family while avoiding any mention of immigration in their official statements.

Iowa, reports Reuters, presents Democrats with enough closely-contested seats to possible regain control of the House after the upcoming midterm elections.

Christopher Peters, who’s mounting a ‘long-shot challenge to Iowa Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack,’ warned that politicizing Tibbetts’ murder “cheapens the death of this young woman.”

“Yes, our immigration system is broken, and Congress has failed to fix it,” Peters wrote on Facebook. “There is much we can and must do. For now, though, we should mourn the loss of Mollie.”


Iowa student’s murder thrust into U.S. debate over immigration

Mollie Tibbetts murder case: Here are the facts on immigrants committing crimes in US

Join the conversation!