Mollie Tibbetts' Relatives: Stop Using Her Death as 'Political Propaganda'

After police said Tibbetts' killer is an illegal immigrant, conservatives started using her death to argue for stricter immigration enforcement.


Poweshiek County Emergency Management Agency/Facebook

An entire family is in mourning after the body of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was finally found Tuesday following a month-long search. But while many conservatives seized on police claims that her suspected killer is an illegal immigrant, some of Tibbetts' family members are speaking out against the politicization of her death.

The revelation that Tibbetts' killer may have been in the country illegally (though his lawyer says otherwise) quickly became a an anti-immigrant talking point. There were multiple op-eds and countless social media posts from prominent conservatives eager to point out that if the suspected killer hadn't been in the U.S., Tibbetts would still be alive. President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter and in a Fox News interview, using the killing to argue for tougher immigration laws.

Some of Tibbetts' relatives think politicizing her death is wrong. "I don't want Mollie's memory to get lost amongst politics," Tibbetts' aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, tells CNN. In a Facebook post, Calderwood noted that "Evil comes in EVERY color."

Tibbett's cousin, Samantha Lucas, went viral with her response to a tweet from conservative commentator Candace Owens. The right-wing provocateur had tied Tibbetts' death to the debate over the Trump administration's family separation policy:

Lucas wasn't having it. "[W]e are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals," she wrote at Owens. "[N]ow stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda."

Lucas admitted to CNN she didn't know Tibbetts all that well. But she still thinks her cousin "would not want this to be used as fuel against undocumented immigrants."

Breck Goodman, who says he was friends with Tibbetts, agrees. "I also know what Mollie stood for … and she would not approve," Goodman tells CNN. "So I don't want her death to be used as propaganda. I don't want her death to be used for more prejudice and for more discrimination, and I don't think she would want that, either."

While it's easy to take tragedies like these and argue they're part of a larger problem, the narrative isn't backed up by facts. As Reason's Ronald Bailey has pointed out on several occasions, research shows that immigrants, including those in the country illegally, are actually less prone to commit crimes than American citizens.

Tibbett's death was horrible, and her killer should be punished. But in general, the benefits of both legal and illegal immigration far outweigh the costs.