After a weeks-long, nationwide search for Mollie Tibbetts, her family’s worst fears were confirmed. 24-year-old Mexican immigrant Cristhian Bahena Rivera – who led police to Mollie’s body – is the main suspect in the case. Quickly, the conversation turned from the search for a missing young woman to a political debate about undocumented immigrants. With the right using her death as a political tool to further their anti-immigrant agenda, Mollie’s family has criticized those trying to politicize this tragedy. Mollie’s father, Rob Tibbetts, has already diligently shut down the debate in her eulogy, but in a new op-ed, he asks conservatives to back off.
In the Des Moines Register, Rob revealed his profound disgust at politicians, who have tried to use Mollie’s as the face of the dangers of the United States’ laws – something she vehemently opposed. “I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome,” he writes. “But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., ‘heartless’ and ‘despicable.’”
The op-ed is in response to a Des Moines Register piece penned by Trump Jr., in which he called Democrats’ reactions to Mollie’s death “heartless” and “despicable.” In the article, the president’s son condemns Democratic politicians, such as Elizabeth Warren, for moving away from the conservative discourse that vilifies the immigrant community. “[Elizabeth Warren] apparently believes that illegal alien parents being separated from their children is a bigger problem than American parents having to bury theirs,” Trump Jr. writes.
But Rob, who has already defended the Latino community, refuses to buy into these xenophobic views. As a matter of fact, he has Latino family members. Mollie’s stepsister and her nephews are Latino. “The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people,” he writes.
Instead, he spent time criticizing Republican politicians, calling them “despicable” and describing their actions as “the opposite of leadership.” President Trump quickly used Mollie to promote his own ideology. On August 22, he demanded Republicans to push legislation to build a wall along the south border and blamed undocumented immigration for her death. “An incredible young woman is now permanently separated from her family,” he said. “A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her.”
But for Mollie’s family, immigration policy has no place in conversations about the young college student. “Make no mistake, Mollie was my daughter and my best friend,” her father adds. “At her eulogy, I said Mollie was nobody’s victim. Nor is she a pawn in others’ debate. She may not be able to speak for herself, but I can and will. Please leave us out of your debate. Allow us to grieve in privacy and with dignity. At long last, show some decency. On behalf of my family and Mollie’s memory, I’m imploring you to stop.”