Trump intensifies rhetoric demonizing undocumented immigrants with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts: How this affects us all — with or without “papeles”

WHAT happened to 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts —a beautiful college student from Iowa who was killed by multiple sharp force injuries by an undocumented immigrant when she was on her usual routine run — is perhaps every parent’s nightmare.

The family of Tibbetts, however, lamented that her death had been used by the Trump administration for its own political agenda.

“I don’t want Mollie’s memory to get lost amongst politics,” worried Billie Jo Calderwood, the aunt of Tibbetts.

Despite this wish expressed by the Tibbetts family and amid the news about Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen’s pleading guilty and implicating Trump as co-conspirator in a federal crime, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s conviction, Trump and his allies used her death to continue to demonize undocumented immigrants and push for funding for his “beautiful wall” that he promised Mexico would be paying for.

The White House tweeted on August 22: “For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder, led police to the cornfield where her body was found. The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone.”

This tweet came with the video, titled “Permanently Separated,” that Trump’s White House released showing families discussing how their loved ones had been killed by undocumented immigrants.

Trump also said via a recorded message on Twitter: “We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed, we need our border laws changed, we need Republicans to do it because the Democrats aren’t going to do it. This is one instance of many.”

“We have tremendous crime trying to come through the borders,” he said. “We have the worse laws anywhere in the world, nobody has laws like the United States, they are strictly pathetic.”

On Tuesday, August 21, Trump told the crowd during a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia: “You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman.”

The family of Tibbetts struck a different tone, however, after she was confirmed to have been murdered. Newsweek reported that her aunt Billie Jo Calderwood posted a message on Facebook urging people to remember that “evil comes in EVERY color.”

“Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you,” she said.

This is so true.

As The Filipino Channel’s daily newscast “Balitang America” reported on statistics, immigrants — legal and undocumented — actually commit fewer crimes than native born citizens.

According to the American Immigration Council, “From 1990-2013, the percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign-born rose from 7.1 percent to 13.1 percent. And yet, over that period, violent crime rates dropped 48 percent all over America.”

A study by the libertarian Cato Institute concludes that the incarceration rate for native-born Americans is 1.53 percent compared with 0.85 percent for undocumented immigrants and 0.47 percent for legal immigrants.

Trump’s latest rhetoric is again part of his pattern of vilifying immigrants as a threat to America’s greatness.

You may argue that this is NOT your problem because you have “papeles.” It goes deeper than that.

Trump’s rhetoric instills fear, doubt, hate and racial profiling against people of color. This is xenophobia, and it affects all of us immigrants — with and without papeles.

How do you shield your self from this discrimination, fear and hate just because of the color of our skin, and just because we look different from the “white people”?

Many kababayans — all documented, and even U.S. citizens — have reported being harassed, verbally attacked by white people. They have been labeled derogatory names echoing all the hateful vilifying words Trump use against undocumented immigrants.

Should you walk around carrying your green card and U.S. passport and H-1B working permits around, perhaps attached to your forehead, so you won’t be discriminated against and be racial profiled? Would you make your kids do this to protect themselves from xenophobia being instilled and nurtured by the Trump presidency?

Does this not go against what the Constitution enshrines about the values of America?

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this columnare solely those of the authorand not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to,

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to and

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