Alleged Mollie Tibbetts killer sparks renewed debate over immigration law

BETTENDORF, Iowa-- Just moments after authorities announced they had found Mollie Tibbetts' body and charged a suspect with murder Tuesday, Aug. 21, politicians seized on the fact that her accused killer is reportedly in the country illegally.

But Wednesday afternoon, Cristhian Rivera's status was called into question after his lawyer filed paperwork in Poweshiek County court, saying Rivera was working in the U.S. legally. The 24-year-old made his first appearance in court Wednesday.

This puts a spin on already heated reactions to Tibbets' death.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds released a statement, saying "We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie's killer."

However, the Quad Cities League of United Latin American Citizens said this reaction is inappropriate.

"It's never the time to bring race into this type of tragic situation," said LULAC Deputy State Director Maria Bribriesco.

Bribriesco said politicians are playing political football with Tibbett's death, using it to promote building a wall on the border and making immigration laws more restrictive.

"I can't imagine a worse thing," she said. "So I really don't want to make this more of a political hot potato. So I would say, let's just think about Tibbetts family."

But some say Rivera's background cannot be ignored and that if he hadn't been allowed into the country, Tibbetts would still be alive.

"An illegal alien, coming in, very sadly from Mexico, and you saw what happened," the President said before calling America's current immigration laws a disgrace.

LULAC said this type of mentality tends to indict the entire Latino community.

"We also urge everyone not to judge the entire community based on the action of one individual," Bribriesco said.

Bribriesco said people should be focusing on having compassion for and allowing the Tibbetts to grieve, rather than using tragedy to promote a political agenda.