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By Staff | Sep 21, 2018

Below is a response to one of my weekly newspaper columns. It was not anonymous:

“Why don’t you write an article about that filthy immigrant that killed Mollie Tibbet(t)s? It was farm related and you are one of the scum that approves of illegal hiring. The farm and its owners should have been shut down immediately. The owners are duplicitous and should be charged, regardless of party (they are republicans). I hope to God that the legislature has the courage to make E-Verify mandatory-no exemptions”.

There was a lot of hate packed into one paragraph for immigrants, farms who hire immigrants and me, but not much accuracy. I did not have to be goaded into writing an article on Mollie Tibbetts. There is a lot in that to unpack.

The first gross error is the statement that farms want to hire illegal immigrants. That is not true, but this hot-head is not the only one who perceives it that way. Farm organizations have been working very hard lobbying their political representatives for legal access to migrant immigrant guest workers. There is a labor crisis building on farms and in the ag industry that will eventually add to consumer food prices. The ag sector needs access to an expanded workforce. The immigration system needs to be reformed so that we can be assured that workers are legal. The legislation to do all this has gotten tied up in the ideological political battle that has so far seen to it that nothing has been advanced as comprehensive immigration law reform. No one I know in the ag sector, nor I, has been advocating hiring illegal workers.

Cristhian Rivera who is believed to have murdered Mollie Tibbetts was employed by Yarrabee Farms, a dairy operation owned by the Lang family near Brooklyn, Iowa.

Rivera was employed as what the farm believed to be a legal farm worker under a government issued identification and social security number that has since proved to have been an alias. Rivera had cleared the Social Security Administration’s employment verification system (I-9) when checked by the farm that later proved to be a stolen identity. They reportedly did not use the E-Verify system, which is considered stronger, more likely to catch misuse of documents issued by the Federal government.

Craig Lang is a former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau and recently lost a candidacy for the GOP nomination for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. The family is highly respected. Ironically, the American Farm Bureau Federation has supported mandatory E-Verify in recent legislation in Congress as did the National Milk Producers Federation and 200 more ag groups (DTN). It has not been made public whether Rivera would have cleared the E-Verify System. None are considered infallible if the identity used and checked was valid, which in this instance, was the case. The system that the farm relied upon was designed to verify that the social security number was valid for payroll purposes.

The first crime that Rivera committed was coming into the country illegally, the second was identity theft and the third, the alleged murder. Mollie Tibbetts was a beautiful 20-year-old girl in the prime of her life taken from her family and all of us in a brutal irrational act. She was the type of young person that makes us proud of our children. She reminded me of my daughters, nieces and granddaughters and I cannot begin to understand the depth of the pain that her loss caused the Tibbetts family. Given the news of her murder, the social media exploded in rage lashing out in every direction with hate asking for vengeance.

What was the Tibbetts family’s concern? The safety of the Latino community and the retribution that they feared that the haters would bring on them for the act of this deranged individual.

Rivera was no more representative of the Latino immigrant community than was the American who was reported to have allegedly killed his wife and two children about that same week. Was he representative of his ethnic heritage? The Tibbetts family knew what most in the ag sector have learned in recent years, that Latinos are good hard-working pro-family people.

What I think we have learned from the Tibbetts family is that hate is hateful. They have been clear in their expression of loss of Mollie that she was not hateful nor racist and that they did not want to see the death of their daughter turned into something even more ugly and brutal. The Tibbetts family expressed love. Wow! They had the reason to be angry and hateful more than anyone, including the hothead who contacted me, and they chose love. Mollie’s aunt posted, “Evil comes in every color.”

Proportionately to demographics, fewer crimes are committed by immigrants than by native Americans but that doesn’t fit the hater’s narrative. The Tibbetts family did everything they could do to diffuse the anger and hate. Her father admonished the haters saying, “Don’t distort her death with racist views.” He said that his daughter would not want to be the face of the immigration debate.

The hothead and I actually agree on mandatory E-Verify. We need comprehensive immigration reform and both sides of the debate are too busy using it to score political points to come to a compromise. The Mollie Tibbetts murder fit the dark narrative of the President on immigration and he was quick to point that out. If the Tibbetts family had been racists and anti-immigrant they could have been traveling with Trump to rallies and gotten great seats at the Capital for the next State of the Union message. The Tibbetts family’s rejection of anti-immigrant racist views produced a backlash from the haters on them in calls to her fathers’ phone.

What we learned was that Mollie Tibbetts was an amazing young woman who will be sorely missed, Cristhian Rivera was an evil man able to spread hate, while the Tibbetts family have countered hate with love. Her father Rob said, “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same value as Iowans”. His daughter’s death was the result of one evil man not an ethnic group or classification. The Tibbetts family makes me proud to be an Iowan.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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