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Reynolds on Tibbetts Death: 'This is Not About Politics'

Joyce Russell/IPR
Gov. Kim Reynolds

Gov. Kim Reynolds today defended her call for immigration reform following the killing of University of Iowa student Molly Tibbetts, allegedly by a man federal officials say is an undocumented Mexican immigrant.  

Following the discovery of the victim’s body, President Trump, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Gov. Reynolds all issued statements highlighting the immigration status of Cristhian Rivera who is jailed on a first degree murder charge.    

"We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community,” Reynolds wrote. 

"That someone would utilize a tragic death like Mollie Tibbetts is ...unconscionable." -Gov. Kim Reynolds

But speaking to reporters after a public event in Ames, Reynolds said she did not immediately “start talking about immigration.”  And she became emotional at the suggestion she is politicizing the tragedy.

“This is not about politics,” Reynolds said.  “This is about policy.

“I've been consistent with this for a long time,” she added.  “Two parties need to come to the table and they need to provide solutions to a system that's broken.”

Opinion writers and immigrant advocates have criticized the Republican politicians for injecting immigration reform into discussion of the killing.   Reynolds’ Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell’s statement steered clear of the suspect’s immigration status.

“I want to commend our law enforcement officials who worked around the clock to investigate this crime,” Hubbell wrote.  “In this state, if you break the law, you will face the consequences.”

More recently, authorities have begun investigating robocalls from a white supremacist group using the Tibbetts death to vilify Mexican immigrants.   

“That someone would take and utilize a tragic death like Molly Tibbetts is just ridiculous and unconscionable and repulsive,” Reynolds said.   

On Twitter, President Trump referred to Tibbetts’ death to promote his call for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. 

"A person came in illegally and killed her,” the president said.  “We have tremendous crime coming through the borders."

Both of Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators called for increased immigration enforcement after Tibbetts’ body was found.