Newsday: Don’t obscure tragic death in politics

August 29, 2018

The death of Mollie Tibbetts is a tragedy, and it’s one that highlights important concerns about this nation’s immigration policy, as well as the intolerable regularity of violence against women.

The killing of the 20-year-old University of Iowa student, however, does not, in its newsworthiness, rise to the level of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 election, any possible collusion of President Donald Trump with Russia, and the cascade of other illegalities now uncovered.

Yet Tibbetts’ death deserves attention. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was charged Tuesday with the first-degree murder. Rivera, a native of Mexico, has reportedly been living in Iowa for four to seven years, and working at Yarrabee Farms, which is owned by prominent Republican Craig Lang and his brothers.

Yarrabee Farms said Rivera is here legally and was checked through the government’s E-Verify system. But after a federal official confirmed Yarrabee Farms has never participated in E-Verify, the company said Rivera had provided fake documentation. Rivera’s attorney insists he is here legally, and the truth might take time to prove.

Building a wall on our Southern border would not change the fact that Yarrabee Farms needs workers from other countries. Serious penalties against the employers who ignore E-Verify are the obvious solution that somehow never occurs. Immigrants need to be vetted. But we’d still need to find a legal way to let in the workers this nation depends on so much that employers regularly break laws to hire them. That’s why true immigration reform, not a border wall, is necessary.


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