Her Daughter’s Murder Was Used to Vilify the Undocumented, But She Took in a Child of Immigrants

Lead Photo: The border fence between the United States and Mexico. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
The border fence between the United States and Mexico. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
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The death of Mollie Tibbetts changed the lives of more than just one family in Brooklyn, Iowa. In August, police revealed that Cristhian Bahena Rivera – a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant – was arrested in connection to her death. The news put Mollie’s family in the spotlight, forcing them to defend the undocumented community when Trump and others tried to politicize her death and paint them in a negative light while they were grieving. It also pushed members of the undocumented community to leave Brooklyn.

Ulises Felix – whose family came from Mexico helped Cristhian start life anew when he first arrived in Brooklyn – asked his family to stay, but as they started seeing more anti-immigrant sentiment near them, they were scared. Someone said something racist to his mother at a gas station, and they continued to see how other Latinxs were on the receiving end of bigoted attacks and insults. His family decided to leave, but they gave 17-year-old Ulises the option to stay behind.

“I got home to a basically empty house except for my room,” Ulises messaged Scott, Mollie’s brother and his friend. “My parents are moving up to Illinois.” Quickly, Scott wrote back and invited him to stay with him and his mother. “We got an extra room,” he said. Mollie’s mom, Laura Calderwood, took him in, though she was hesitant at first, but she knew that’s what her daughter would have done.

A feature in the Washington Post details how Ulises, Laura, and Scott became an unlikely family. And how through Ulises – who has familial ties to Cristhian (Bahena Rivera dated Ulises’ cousin and had a child with her) – she learned about parts of this man’s personality. And though there were plenty of moments that made the transition difficult for all of them, they genuinely care and look out for each other.

Read the entire piece here.