The Federalist Abandons All Logic on Tibbetts Case



A piece recently published in The Federalist, about the Mollie Tibbets murder case, demonstrates everything that is wrong with open-borders arguments on immigration.  According to the author “The Murder of Mollie Tibbetts is Reason to Loosen Immigration Laws, Not Restrict Them,” because “if we went to fix our immigration system we should start by making it easier for people to come here and work – legally.” After all, “illegal migration is a victimless crime.”

There are two significant problems with this approach, however. It show’s a stunning naiveté about causation and the law. And, as a result, it is utterly nonsensical.

The only reason to view the murder of Mollie Tibbets as a valid basis for loosening our immigration laws would be if one could clearly demonstrate two things: 1) that restrictive immigration regulations somehow contributed to Ms. Tibbetts’ death; and 2) that we could loosen those immigration rules without the accrual of any other negative consequences. Of course, neither test could be satisfied with respect to the murder of Ms. Tibbetts.

Based on the available evidence, it appears that Christhian Bahena Rivera intentionally abducted and murdered Mollie Tibbetts after he encountered her while she was jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa. He’s been charged with willful, deliberate and premeditated homicide pursuant to the Iowa Code Annotated § 707.2. In that sense, restrictive U.S. immigration laws cannot be said to have contributed to the death of Ms. Tibbetts. Her death was not a direct result of Mr. Rivera’s efforts to cross the border unlawfully or remain here in violation of American law.

On the other hand, but for the fact that he violated our immigration laws, Mr. Rivera would not have been present in the United States to commit a crime against Ms. Tibbetts. His illegal entry into, and unlawful presence within, the United States were both predicate offenses which enabled him to commit murder in the United States. Accordingly, The Federalist’s argument that unlawful migration is a “victimless crime” fails miserably in this case.

First, it fails the simple logic test. Rivera’s breach of the border was a crime against American sovereignty. He then committed identity theft in order to obtain the documents necessary to apply for a job. And he followed-up by defrauding his employer, in order to accept work So, the trail of victims began with the American people, continued to whoever may have been victimized by Rivera’s identity theft, extended to his employer, and ultimately to Ms. Tibbetts.

But it also fails a second time when one notes that the term “crime” does not refer merely to a personal injury for which the law provides a remedy. Rather, it refers to a violation of those duties which an individual owes to the community and for the breach of which the law has provided that the offender shall make satisfaction to the public. And American law is explicit: foreign nationals are welcome here only when they observe the dictates of our immigration laws. When they violate those laws, the satisfaction owed to the community is for the United Stated government to enforce their departure to their home nations, where they possess the rights of citizenship.

Had the United States met that obligation with regard to Christhian Bahena Rivera, he would not have been here at all – and, therefore, would have been unable to kill Ms. Tibbetts. And only one enslaved to a particularly dangerous kind of willful blindness would argue that making it easier for the Riveras of the world to come here lawfully would offer any measure of protection to the likes of Mollie Tibbetts, or any of the others who suffered less egregious victimization at his hands.

About Author

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Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats.He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

9 Comments

  1. avatar
    Noelle Steffen on

    I fully agree that the death of Mollie Tibbets is awful. However, it seems very unlikely that all immigrates deliberately come to the United States because it was their “dream to kill white college girls”. In fact, most statistics point to the fact that illegal immigrates tend to stay out of trouble the most because they fear going back to the country the left. And while surveying years of police and federal evidence, it appears that illegal immigrate make up a very, insignificant fraction compared to other demographics. This does not justify Rivera’s action in the least of course, but it does add a layer of complexity to the discussion revolving around boarder control.

    • avatar

      “In fact, most statistics point to the fact that illegal immigrates tend to stay out of trouble the most because they fear going back to the country the(y) left.”

      Yes, we wouldn’t want to deport all of those doctors, lawyers, scientists and Nobel Prize winners living in the shadows who are here illegally!

  2. avatar
    Noelle Steffen on

    I am going to have to disagree with you. After working at dozens of tax preparation offices for years, I have come to discover that “taxes” is a much more complex subject. I have found over years of research that actually millions of undocumented immigrants file tax returns each year, and they are paying taxes for benefits they can’t even use.

    The best estimates come from research by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, DC, think tank, which suggests that about half of undocumented workers in the United States file income tax returns. The most recent IRS data, from 2015, shows that the agency received 4.4 million income tax returns from workers who don’t have Social Security numbers, which includes a large number of undocumented immigrants. That year, they paid $23.6 billion in income taxes.

    Those undocumented workers paid taxes for benefits they can’t even use, like Social Security and Medicare. They also aren’t eligible for benefits like the earned income tax credit. But the IRS still expects unauthorized immigrants to file their taxes, and many of them do so.

    And what is even more surprising, is that that is just the tip of the iceberg.

    And while this may not directly coincide with what you where talking about, it does offer a new perspective on a heated topic.

  3. avatar
    Haileigh Steffen on

    I fully agree that the death of Mollie Tibbets is awful. However, it seems very unlikely that all immigrates deliberately come to the United States because it was their “dream to kill white college girls”. In fact, most statistics point to the fact that illegal immigrates tend to stay out of trouble the most because they fear going back to the country the left. And while surveying years of police and federal evidence, it appears that illegal immigrate make up a very, insignificant fraction compared to other demographics. This does not justify Rivera’s action in the least of course, but it does add a layer of complexity to the discussion revolving around boarder control.

  4. avatar

    How can illegal immigration be a victimless crime when there are documented cases of people victimized by illegal aliens?
    Someone crossing the border even legally has never contributed so much as a dime to American society, and yet they take in the form of education, medical care, etc. It’s even more egregious when these people don’t even have the decency to ask permission to be here.
    Does this guy think people’s taxes don’t go up when hordes of foreigners invade their towns and schools? How are they not victims?

    • avatar
      Noelle Steffen on

      I fully agree that the death of Mollie Tibbets is awful. However, it seems very unlikely that all immigrates deliberately come to the United States because it was their “dream to kill white college girls”. In fact, most statistics point to the fact that illegal immigrates tend to stay out of trouble the most because they fear going back to the country the left. And while surveying years of police and federal evidence, it appears that illegal immigrate make up a very, insignificant fraction compared to other demographics. This does not justify Rivera’s action in the least of course, but it does add a layer of complexity to the discussion revolving around boarder control.

  5. avatar

    If you read the Federalist article, it says anyone who wants to “procure” and use a SS number can do so. Sure, they do it all the time. They frequently pay to steal someone else’s and that person can have a lifetime of problems with things like mortgages, credit, and passports. Even when the government KNOWS that two or more people are using a number they will refuse to tell the original owner, in other words the FIRST and supposedly ONLY recipient of the number, where and when that number is being used. This is explained as some PRIVACY policy. Privacy for who? Besides the illegal, that is. Let an American citizen do any of this and see if it gets passed off as “victimless”.

    And what exactly makes anyone think that increasing legal immigration is going to stop illegals coming here. Like if we allowed a million more people a year to come in, then illegal immigration goes to zero. Horse ####.

    The media is praising McCain for “working with Ted Kennedy on immigration”. The two lying lions of the Senate. There was Kennedy and his assurance that the 1965 immigration act “will not flood our cities with a million immigrants annually” and will “not change the ethnic makeup of the country”. Then he promised in 1986 that “never again will an amnesty bill be brought to the Senate floor”. McCain of course got tough on illegals when he had a primary opponent in 2010 and then became one of the “bipartisan gang of 8” for the amnesty bill in 2013 that would have legalized every single illegal here, with nothing more than vague promises of “studies” for border control.

    • avatar

      I have never met anyone who has claimed their neighborhood/city/town was improved by hordes of illegals. California totally ignores the fact their schools went from 1st in the nation to around 48 because of immigration from south of the border.

  6. avatar

    Unbelievable. This is the kind of garbage one would expect to see published somewhere like the Huffington Post.

    Here is a story about the crimes committed across the border from El Paso, TX in the Ciudad Juárez area by a hitman for a Mexican drug cartel.

    From the International Business Times:

    Mexico Drug Cartel Hitman Beheaded and Dismembered 800 Victims

    February 2014

    A Mexican drug cartel hitman told a US court that he stopped counting the number of people he had killed when he got to 800.

    Jesus Castillo told jurors in an El Paso federal court that during his days as a paid killer in the ranks of the Barrio Azteca gang, he often beheaded and dismembered victims to impress his boss.

    Chavez testified that Barrio Azteca murdered more than 2,000 people in the Ciudad Juárez area – just over the border from El Paso – in the years leading to his arrest in 2010.

    Gang members worked as hired guns for the Juárez cartel in the turf war against the rival Sinaloa syndicate, Chavez said.

    He said his bosses demanded his squad killed at least eight people a day to keep up fear and tension in the area.

    Chavez told the court that, to better their murdering skills, Barrio Azteca members underwent a training course for hitmen provided by the infamous Los Zetas, a drug cartel founded by deserters from Mexico army special corps, the El Paso Times reported.

    Chavez is the star witness in a trial against his former boss, Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, over the murder of three US consular workers.

    Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley, and Jorge Salcido were shot dead as they were travelling by car in Juárez in March 2010.

    Chavez told the court that the Barrio Azteca leaders suspected staff at the US consulate of helping the Sinaloa by providing visas to gang members.