Motion for Gag Order filed for man accused of murdering Mollie Tibbetts: "Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members." #iacourts @weareiowa5news pic.twitter.com/a34tF8x0DX— Mario Rossi (@mariovrossi) August 22, 2018
UPDATE: Both President Donald Trump and his administration have repeatedly used the murder of Mollie Tibbetts to make a case against undocumented immigrants by saying that her death is a consequence of lax immigration laws.
Online, thousands of users have also joined the anti-immigration chorus, including prominent Republicans and conservative talking heads, such as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
As Iowans, we are heartbroken, and we are angry. 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 bring justice to Mollie’s killer.— Gov. Kim Reynolds (@IAGovernor) August 21, 2018
Despite their claims, members of Tibbetts' family have stood against people politicizing the situation and the circumstances that led to Tibbetts' death.
On Twitter, relative of the Tibbetts' family, Samantha Lucas, responded to conservative commentator and director of communications for Turning Point USA, Candace Owens, telling her they are not so “small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals.”
She then told Owens to "stop being a f****ing snake and using my cousin's death as political propaganda."
"[T]ake her name out of your mouth," she added.
Owens’ organization is pro-Trump.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Lucas said that while she wasn’t close to Tibbetts, she knows the family wouldn’t stand for the politicization of this crime.
"I know enough about Mollie to know her political standings and that she would NOT want this to be used as fuel against undocumented immigrants," she said.
In a since-deleted post on Facebook, Tibbetts’ aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, said that “Evil comes in EVERY color."
"Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races," she added, according to BuzzFeed.
In another post, Calderwood asked people to send her photos of her niece for a memorial video, adding that “This post is NOT an invitation to post your political beliefs."
Friends of Tibbetts also took to Twitter to demand that people stop politicizing their friend’s death.
I’m not sure what makes me more mad— Maddie bach (@maddibach) August 21, 2018
People thinking they know mollies family
Her being used as a political agenda..
rip you great soul, it was a pleasure knowing you❤️
Remember and pray for the family. Not the time to make it a political issue. Celebrate Mollie.— Noah Zylstra (@zylstra509) August 21, 2018
In tweets following her reply to Owens, Lucas said that the family “should be able to grieve without politics." She then defended her earlier rant by adding that she “only said this because I want all family members to be able to grieve in peace."
TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR: i’m not a member of Mollie’s immediate family. i am a 2nd cousin but it’s hard to write all that in a tweet. we have a family facebook page where we’ve all been in contact and grieving together. i was only saying we should be able to grieve without politics— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018
and if this wasn’t already obvious, i don’t speak for the entire family! no one could. i have my political opinions but that’s not why i said any of this — i only said this because i want all family members to be able to grieve in peace. that’s literally all i meant.— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018
Other users supported the message.
Stop politicizing the death of Mollie Tibbetts.— MB 🇺🇸 (@Myah1997) August 22, 2018
Let her family grieve.
Let justice do it’s job.
Stop fear mongering.
Using Mollie Tibbetts killers’ citizenship status as a way to dehumanize other immigrants is disgusting. Yes her death is tragic, but mourn her and stop politicizing her death.— king coleslaw (@lowkeyellieb) August 22, 2018
Republicans: “Stop politicizing school shootings!!! It’s not the time! Respect the families who are mourning!”— Mary Halonen (@maryhalonen) August 22, 2018
Also Republicans: *instantly politicize the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, turning it into an immigration issue when it is clearly not one*
Despite the calls from relatives, it’s unlikely that Trump and his supporters will stop using this death as anti-immigrant propaganda. Still, it’s important that we keep amplifying the voices that call for an end to hate in a time of pain and grief.
UPDATE: Immigration authorities said they have no record of granting Cristhian Bahena Rivera admission into the United States. Rivera is accused of killing 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbets in Iowa.
According to a spokesperson for U.S. and Immigration Services, the agency searched its records and found no indication that Rivera "has any immigration status."
That statement contradicts comments made by Rivera's attorney, Allen Richards, who said Rivera was living legally in Iowa.
President Donald Trump’s White House wasted no time politicizing the horrific killing of Mollie Tibbetts, 20, at the hands of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, and trying to turn the case into a weapon against the administration’s critics.
On Twitter, the White House shared a video showing families who were “permanently separated” because of undocumented immigrants, making it a direct statement against critics who slam Trump for having separated families at the border.
For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder, led police to the cornfield where her body was found.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 22, 2018
The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone. pic.twitter.com/BBskwHEJoU
In the video, which went live around the same time White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Rivera “is an illegal immigrant,” family members talk about loved ones who were killed by undocumented immigrants. Some even share heart-breaking details about the circumstances that led to their loved ones’ deaths.
At the end of the video, each one of the participants says, “My separation is permanent.”
Despite the administration’s decision to use Tibbetts’ death to make a point against both undocumented immigration and critics of the administration’s family separation policy, Rivera’s attorney, Allen Richards, claims his client was living legally in Iowa.
In a court document filed Wednesday asking for a gag order in the case, Richards wrote that the president is doing a disservice to justice by politicizing this story.
“Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members," he wrote.
He then explained that Rivera lived in Iowa for four to seven years, and that he worked at Yarrabee Farms, which is owned by Eric Lang, the brother of prominent Republican Craig Lang, who served as the president of both the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Board of Regents, and who ran for state secretary of agriculture in 2018 as a Republican.
"Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction, and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statement," Richards wrote.
The attorney explained that Rivera came to the United States as a minor and that he had complied with all requirements regarding his status since then. Prior to hiring him, Richards added, the Lang family got his E-Verify electronic immigration status checked, confirming he was in the country legally.
Still, the president couldn’t wait to talk about the Tibbetts’ case until more information was available, discussing it openly during a West Virginia rally just hours after the victim's body was found.
"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 told his Charleston audience. "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. We're getting them changed, but we have to get more Republicans. We have to get 'em."
If the claims made by Rivera’s attorney are proven correct, and the suspect was, indeed, in Iowa legally, the president and members of his administration will surely be slammed by critics for manipulating this story to fit their political agenda.
Unfortunately, the president will most likely not apologize for using this case to mischaracterize scores of other immigrants. If there’s one thing that Trump is good at, it’s ignoring facts. And he hasn’t shown signs that he is changing his tune anytime soon.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Iowa Department of Public Safety/Handout via REUTERS