At the funeral for his “hero” and 20-year-old daughter Mollie Tibbetts, Rob Tibbetts spoke of her zeal, her kindness, her strength and her passion.
He also broke his silence on the rampant politicization of her death that began almost immediately after a suspect in her murder was named.
Authorities arrested Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 24-year-old who is reportedly an undocumented Mexican immigrant, last week. His immigration status quickly became a hot-button issue amongst Republicans — including President Donald Trump — who tried to draw a direct line between Mollie Tibbetts’s death and the need for stricter immigration laws.
But at her funeral Sunday, Mollie’s father said the Hispanic community embraced him during these difficult past few weeks, and rebuked the narrative swirling around his daughter’s death.
“The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” Tibbetts said at his daughter’s funeral, according to the Des Moines Register. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”
The crowd at the funeral erupted in applause following his comments, the Register reported. The remarks were the first public comments a direct family member has made about the politicization of Tibbetts’ death.
Not long after Rivera’s immigration status was revealed, Trump claimed in a video posted on Twitter that Mollie Tibbetts’ death was “one instance of many” and reiterated his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. A slew of other Republican politicians have commented on her death in a similar matter, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who said “a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community.”
There is no evidence that an illegal immigrant — or any immigrant for that matter — is more likely to commit a crime than a person who is born in the U.S.
Mollie Tibbetts’ further removed family members and friends responded last week to these claims, asking for her death to stay removed from the debate around immigration.
“Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color,” Mollie Tibbetts’ aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, said in a Facebook post last week.
As for Mollie’s father, he hopes to remember her as “nobody’s victim” and instead for her life.
“Today, we need to turn the page. We’re at the end of a long ordeal,” Rob Tibbetts said at his daughter’s funeral, according to the Register. “But we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.”