The Mexican national charged with murdering Mollie Tibbetts entered the country illegally but successfully passed an E-Verify check administered by his employer using stolen identification, a law-enforcement official told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Cristhian Rivera’s employer, Yarrabee Farms, claims the 24-year-old worker passed the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify check, which is designed to help employers identify illegal immigrants.
The attorney representing Rivera, who has lived in the area for four years, claims he entered the country legally, citing the word of his employer.
“Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statement [sic],” Rivera’s attorney, Allen Richards, wrote in a court filing asking for a gag order in the case, according to the Des Moines Register. (Lang, the farm’s owner, is a prominent Republican who was defeated in the 2018 Iowa agriculture-secretary primary.)
Michael Bars, a U.S. Customs and Immigration Services spokesman, confirmedin a statement provided to National Review that Rivera is in the country illegally.
“A search of records by USCIS revealed Rivera did not make any DACA requests nor were any grants given. We have found no record in our systems indicating he has any lawful immigration status,” Bars said.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old psychology student, disappeared on July 18 after leaving her boyfriend’s home in the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa, for a jog.
Rivera told the authorities he remembered following Tibbetts but remembers nothing else until he found her body in the trunk of his car and dumped it in a cornfield. The admitted killer led the police to Tibbetts’s body after they identified him on a surveillance camera and subsequently interrogated him.
A number of prominent Republicans, including Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have pointed to Tibbetts’s death as they called for more effective immigration-enforcement policies.
The loss of Mollie Tibbetts is a devastating reminder that we must urgently fix our broken immigration laws. pic.twitter.com/0Kaz0FQw36
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 22, 2018
Prayers for Tibbetts family & all who knew & loved Mollie. Lots of questions—where did this illegal alien work? what was his work status—but one thing is sure: Mollie would be alive if our government had taken immigration enforcement seriously years ago. https://t.co/JScrv7aD5P
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) August 21, 2018
Heartbroken by the news about Mollie Tibbetts. Mollie was an amazing young woman and we are praying for her parents, brothers & friends in this time of unimaginable grief…. https://t.co/JesB2VXjnN
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) August 21, 2018
In his court filing, Richards accused the president of seizing on Rivera’s citizenship status for political gain, claiming it would infringe on his client’s right to a fair trial.
“Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members,” Richards wrote.
Democrats have responded by admonishing Republicans for politicizing the murder and have denied that the tragedy exemplifies the dangers posed by permissive immigration policy.