Following last week’s arrest of an undocumented Mexican immigrant for the murder of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statement, which concluded:
As Iowans, we are heartbroken, and we are angry. 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.
On Thursday, Reynolds was asked about her statement, and she replied, “I didn’t immediately start talking about immigration.”
The Aug. 21 press conference at which the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced the arrest of Cristhian Bahena Rivera began at 4 p.m. The governor’s statement arrived in Little Village’s inbox at 4:19 p.m., and a tweet reiterating the conclusion of the statement was posted to the governor’s official account at 4:21 p.m.
Hours before Reynolds made her claim on Thursday that less than 20 minutes doesn’t qualify as “immediately,” residents of a Des Moines neighborhood home to many immigrants discovered “Deport illegals” spray-painted across the pavement of a nearby street.
“Members of the Latino community are concerned, and some are afraid,” Manny Galvez, founder and organizer of the Iowa City Latino Festival, told Little Village, last week. “There are a lot of angry things being said. And [the people making the angry statements] aren’t distinguishing between people without documents and Latinos.”
“Much of the rhetoric we’re seeing is dangerous.”
The seventh annual Iowa City Latino Festival, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 25, was postponed out of respect for the family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts, but also due to safety concerns.
“Some vendors told me they were afraid there could be an incident,” Galvez said. He pointed to Reynolds’ Aug. 21 statement as an example of politicians “addressing this issue in the wrong way.”
“Like everybody, we want to hold [Bahena Rivera] accountable,” Galvez said. “But saying to the public that the problem is people without documents is wrong. I think the roots of this situation — crime and violence against women — is beyond that.”
During her remarks to reporters on Thursday, Reynolds said she condemned the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has followed the arrest of Bahena Rivera.
“It’s unconscionable that somebody would take and utilize a tragic death like Mollie Tibbetts’,” Reynolds said.