On July 18, Mollie Tibbetts, a student at the University of Iowa, went for a jog. She was murdered. The suspect in the case is an illegal alien from Mexico. He is standing trial now.
In August, a Politico headline read, “Trump’s new rallying cry: Mollie Tibbetts.” The subheading was, “The White House makes clear the Iowa tragedy will be front and center in the fight over immigration.”
The president said, “Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman, is now permanently separated from her family.” (This is an allusion to the administration’s controversial policy of family separation at the U.S.–Mexico border.) “A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her.” At one of his rallies, the president said, “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. Should’ve never happened. Illegally in our country.”
For her part, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, said, “On behalf of our entire administration, I want to extend prayers to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mollie Tibbetts.”
Earlier this week, Celia Barquin, a student at Iowa State University, went to play a round of golf. She did a lot of that. She was one of the best golfers in the country. This year, she won the Big 12 championship and played in the U.S. Women’s Open. She was named Iowa State’s female athlete of the year. When she got the news, she broke down in tears of happiness. She was supposed to be honored at yesterday’s football game.
At any rate, she was murdered on the golf course. The murderer had recently told somebody that he had “an urge to rape and kill a woman.” He dumped Celia’s body in a pond on the golf course.
Celia was from Spain. The murderer is homegrown — one of “ours.” Celia was an “incredible, beautiful young woman,” just as President Trump said about Mollie. And her murder “should’ve never happened.” What murder should? Yet Celia’s murder, obviously, is not a national cause. It is dog-bites-man, in a way. There are no presidential statements or presidential-press-secretary statements. Celia’s bloody shirt will not be waved at a rally.
Should we homegrown Americans feel a special shame? Should we — through Sarah Huckabee Sanders, perhaps — apologize to Spain, for what happened to one of its daughters when she came to America to study civil engineering and play golf? Should the press secretary “extend prayers to the family, friends, and loved ones”?
Illegal immigration is a serious problem. So is criminality. So is demagoguery. And I can’t help feeling that a murder is a murder and a corpse a corpse and an incredible, beautiful young woman an incredible, beautiful young woman.