On the early evening of July 16, 2018, 20-year-old rising college sophomore Mollie Tibbetts went for a run.
In the tiny town of Brooklyn, Iowa, this wasn’t unusual. With only about 1,500 residents, Brooklyn is a town in the middle of America’s heartland where “not a lot of big things happen.”
Enter Cristhian Bahen Rivera. At some point between 2011 and 2014, Rivera—if that is his real name—crossed illegally into the United States from Mexico. He made his way to Iowa. He forged identity documents and got a job in Brooklyn at Yarrabee Farms.
On July 16, their paths crossed. Rivera allegedly spotted Tibbetts as she ran down a country road. He followed her. According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Tibbetts told Rivera to leave her alone. She fumbled with her phone to call the police. Then she took off running. Rivera chased her down.
On August 22, police found Tibbetts’ body among the corn stalks, her life taken by “multiple sharp force injuries.” Rivera claims he can’t remember what happened, except for dumping Tibbetts’ body in the cornfield. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
A Growing Fraternity of Grief
For the Tibbetts family, their unimaginable agony has been aggravated by their very understandable desire not to be part of the unfolding political debate about the brutal murder of their sister, daughter, cousin, and niece.
Their grief remains solely their own. And although they did not choose it, and may never accept it, they are now members of a fraternity of grieving families all linked by a singular weight, a “single, anguished declaration”: The murderer of their loved ones and family members wasn’t supposed to be here.
It’s a heartrending, wretched truth which the families of Mollie Tibbetts, Kate Steinle, Chrishia Odette, Ellie and Grayson Hacking, Shayley Estes, Dominic Daniel Durden, and thousands of others are forced to confront. It’s what we, as a country, must collectively acknowledge if we are going to avoid these recurring atrocities. This grief could have been avoided. These murders could have been prevented. And while many untimely deaths face complicated subject lines, Mollie’s murder, and the ones like it, do not.
Border security could have prevented them all.
True, no border is perfect. Yes, even in the best of all worlds, Rivera might have slipped across. But the fact that he was in the country for up to seven years, the fact that he was able to obtain a job with forged documents, pass a background check, and drive a car that wasn’t his, suggests that even basic enforcement was foreign to this illegal alien.
Government Failure Top to Bottom
Rivera wasn’t supposed to be here. This never should have happened. But he is, and that’s the result of an intentional choice made daily by our government and our Congress.
Our border security has been lax, underfunded, and understaffed for years. Year upon year thousands cross the border illegally because they know they can stay, because they know that even if they show up soaking wet from swimming across the Rio Grande, they’ll be admitted as long as no one saw them cross.
They know—as does the Congress—that “catch and release” is the unofficial policy of the Border Patrol. Many illegal immigrants actually turn themselves in, because they know they’ll immediately be let go. Yes, they’re assigned a court date. But close to 40 percent never show up for it.
In the furious few days following the discovery of Tibbetts’ body and the illegal status of Rivera, the mainstream media and the Left have been quick to point out immigrants don’t commit more crime than native-born Americans! Actually, studies show they commit less!
This group is so absurdly reactionary that they miss the implication in their own point. Yes, studies do show that immigrants—legal immigrants—commit fewer crimes than do native-born Americans. What does that tell us? Not that all immigrants, legal or illegal, are harmless. It tells us that vetting matters.
A good border security system scrutinizes a person’s record, his ability to contribute to a country from which he seeks to benefit, and a host of other qualities that we, as a nation of former immigrants ourselves, have deemed valuable and necessary to sustaining and improving of our republic.
Illegal immigrants, on the other hand? Well, the data is hard to come by—because they’re here illegally. Most illegal immigrants are deported upon conviction, and some of them will cross the border again days later. Others are released into the interior of the country and never heard from again until they reoffend. The man who shot Kate Steinle in San Francisco had been deported five times, and was wanted for a sixth.
None of these illegal immigrants are vetted. But they are known to us. We—our government and our Congress—know that thousands cross the border illegally each month and disappear.
And yet Congress sits idle.
Despite decades of promises, two years of a unified majority and a president who prioritizes border security so much that he wants to build a southern border wall, congressional Republicans have done nothing. (And nothing, nothing and more nothing.)
Democrats have been able to demagogue this issue for years, conflating even minimal border enforcement with racism and oppression. Now as the November midterms approach, Democrats are running on a platform of dismantling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, comparing enforcement of the law to the Holocaust, and advocating the decriminalization of illegal entry.
Democrats Make Shameful Excuses, While Republicans Punt
They aren’t going to stop. When confronted with the consequences of their policies this week, the response of leading Democrats was nothing less than horrifying.
On MSNBC, a liberal pundit lamented that “a girl in Iowa” should receive so much attention. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a presumptive 2020 presidential candidate flippantly dismissed what the Tibbetts family is going through as “hard,” but urged the country to focus on the “real problems” in the immigration system, like illegal immigrant families being separated at the border.
If that couldn’t be outdone, the former spokeswoman for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared that Tibbetts’ murder “isn’t about border security.” Rather, “it’s about toxic masculinity.”
I wish I could say Republicans are countering with righteous outrage, demanding strong border security solutions, forcing votes on these issues, and making public commitments to address these policies before the November midterms.
But they aren’t. In fact, they’re currently trying to punt their last chance to deal with the issue until December—after voters have re-elected them.
For Mollie Tibbetts and thousands of other Americans killed by people who weren’t supposed to be here, the action will come too late. And Republicans, once the party of strong border security, rational immigration policy and, above all, the rule of law, will have let them—and us—down yet again.
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