Tibbetts Suspect Worked at Local Dairy Farm

milking cows
AP/Rich Pedroncelli

Mollie Tibbetts’ suspected killer was verified as a legal worker, even though he is an illegal immigrant, says his employer, who is the owner of a dairy farm in Brooklyn, Iowa.

According to the Des Moines Register newspaper:

In a statement Tuesday night, Dane Lang, of Yarrabee Farms, said Rivera was an “employee in good standing” and was “shocked to hear” Rivera was implicated.

Dane Lang is related to Craig Lang, the former president of both the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Board of Regents and a 2018 Republican candidate for state secretary of agriculture. Documents immediately reviewed by the Des Moines Register listed several owners of Yarrabee Farms, including Dane Lang and Eric Lang, Craig’s brother.

In the statement, Dane Lang said Rivera worked for Yarrabee Farms for four years and passed the government’s vetting process. Investigators visited the farm Monday to speak with employees.

However, law enforcement officials said the alleged killer, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, is in the country illegally.

One explanation for the contradictory information could be that the alleged killer used someone else’s identity to get the job, and the farm managers ignored evidence of fraud, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The federal E-Verify system asks job applicants for their Social Security Number and birthdate, he said. It is possible the hiring manager completed the process and got initial approval from the E-Verify system that the person with the claimed identity was legally allowed to work in the United States — but then did nothing once the E-Verify system subsequently reported that multiple people were using the same SSN and birthdate combination, he said.

This flawed process enables an owner to drop the blame on the hiring manager whenever the federal government notices that an illegal was hired, Krikorian said. “He’s usually the one who ends up holding the bag.”

In prior cases, enforcement-agency officials have shown how employers indirectly pressure their hiring managers to avoid evidence of workers’ illegal status. “It was all done through indirection, [with employers saying to managers] ‘Yes, we really need to cut costs and if you don’t you’ll lose your job,’ so the employers had plausible deniability” in any subsequent legal cases, Krikorian said.

The Washington Post reported:

Rivera was in the country illegally, but appears to have used a stolen identification card to satisfy a federal immigration background check by his employer through the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system, a law enforcement official told The Washington Post.

However, employers say that if they reject job-applicants for suspect documents, they open themselves up to lawsuits, including by the federal government. In 2012, for example, officials working for former President Barack Obama punished a farm business for seeking extra identification information:

 The Justice Department announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Rose Acre Farms Inc., a major U.S. egg producer based in Seymour, Ind., alleging that Rose Acre engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against work-authorized non-citizens in the employment eligibility verification process.  Rose Acre operates in more than 40 locations in six states.

A proposed upgrade of the E-Verify law would require federal officials to notify Americans when their SSNs are being used by other people, said Krikorian. The proposed law, drafted by retiring GOP Rep. Lamar Smith, is needed because federal officials working for President Barack Obama stopped telling citizens when their SSNs were being used by criminals.

The farm employer may not be the only local business owner to turn a blind eye to the illegal’s presence, Krikorian also warned. “How did he get his car? How did he register it? Does he have a drivers’ license?”

The statement from the employer said:

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts. This is a profoundly sad day for our community. All of us at Yarrabee Farms are shocked to hear that one of our employees was involved and is charged in this case.

This individual has worked at our farms for four years, was vetted through the government’s E-Verify system, and was an employee in good standing. On Monday, the authorities visited our farm and talked to our employees. We have cooperated fully with their investigation.

Yarrabee Farms follows all laws related to verifying employees are legal to work in the United States, and we regularly seek outside counsel to ensure we stay up-to-date on employment law matters. We keep records on all employees and have shared that information with authorities.

We appreciate the hard work of law enforcement officials. We will continue to cooperate with authorities as the investigation moves forward.

The brother of the owner is a fixture in local GOP politics and pushed for business-first policies. In a Sioux City Journal op-ed, Craig Lang said:

… all the talk seems to be about throwing NAFTA away. That would be a disaster for Iowa and have repercussions beyond the dairy sector. Higher tariffs and reduced demand for Iowa corn, soybeans, pork, livestock and poultry could drive already low commodity prices even lower. None of that would be good news to farm machinery manufacturers, ethanol producers, meat processers and other agribusinesses across the state and Midwest.

All of this uncertainty has Iowa agriculture leaders openly expressing concerns that withdrawing from NAFTA could drive Iowa agriculture into a deep recession …

… When balancing NAFTA’s benefits to our state versus its shortcomings, President Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t match the record and we cannot afford to let political posturing kill an agreement that continues to benefit Iowa agriculture.

Lang also opposes the use of tariffs to curb China’s mercantilist policies, according to Caffeinated Thoughts:

Craig Lang, a former Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president and 5th generation dairy, beef, and crop farmer from Poweshiek County, is also running for the Republican nomination. Lang said a trade skirmish with China is bad for the Iowa economy and he called on federal officials to “find a solution to get us back on the right track.”

“Iowa’s farmers have always stepped up and done what’s right for our country, but all too often they get stepped on by government policies that hurt their ability to produce and make a living,” Lang said. “Once again, federal policies are hitting agriculture hard. Farmers already have enough unpredictability in their lives with the weather and other factors. I hope the Trump administration will ease tensions, take action that encourages China to remove its tariff on pork and other agricultural products and foster the type of free trade that benefits American agriculture instead of hurting it.”

“Farmers are already struggling with profitability; they shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the burden of tariffs,” Lang added. “I would encourage the current administration to recognize the impact this situation has already had on the agriculture sector and the extremely negative effects it will have going forward. The administration needs to find a solution to get us back on the right track in short order.”

The dairy industry has a lot of influence in the GOP and recently led the push for a “discharge petition” amnesty that would provide more workers for the dairy industry. The push failed when reform advocates in the party pushed back and forced a vote on a reform bill which narrowly failed when leadership pushed for a rival immigration bill.






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