White House tweets video of 'permanently separated' families following death of Iowa college student

White House tweets video of 'permanently separated' families following death of Iowa college student
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The White House published a video on Wednesday of families who have been "permanently separated" because a loved one was killed by an immigrant in the country illegally, ratcheting up GOP efforts to tie the death of an Iowa college student to the need for stricter immigration laws.

The White House video notes that the Tibbetts family has been "permanently separated" after Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was found dead after a month-long search. An undocumented immigrant has been charged in her death.

The video depicts a montage of several unidentified individuals talking about loved ones who were killed by illegal immigrants, with many of them describing violent circumstances.


“My separation is permanent,” the individuals each say at the end of the video, an apparent reference to the outcry over the separation of thousands of migrant families at the border in recent months.

Republicans and Democrats alike spoke out against the separation of families, which resulted from the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy implemented earlier this year.

The government has since reunited most of the more than 2,000 separated children with family members, though many could not be reunited due to deportations or safety concerns.

The White House video was published Wednesday around the time White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought up Tibbetts during a press briefing.

"Sadly, the individual believed to be responsible for the murder is an illegal immigrant, making this an unfortunate reminder of why we need to strengthen our immigration laws," Sanders said.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was charged with murder in connection to the death of 20-year-old Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, who had been missing for more than a month before authorities discovered her body this week.

Rivera was in the country illegally, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but his employer said that he had passed a background check and was in "good standing" as a worker.

Rivera's attorney filed a court document on Wednesday that argued his client was working legally in the U.S..

President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE highlighted Tibbetts' case during a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday night.

"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," Trump said.

"We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad," he continued. "The immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting them changed, but we have to get more Republicans." 

Trump's rhetoric reverberated among some Republicans. Iowa Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyNumber of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan MORE (R) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump faces test of power with early endorsements GOP looks to squeeze Biden, Democrats on border Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border MORE (R) issued a joint statement lamenting that "too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws."

Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward (R) alleged that current lawmakers, including Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' MORE (R-Ariz.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainColbert mocks Gaetz after Trump denies he asked for a pardon Five reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Meghan McCain calls on Gaetz to resign MORE (R-Ariz.) "contribute" to deaths at the hands of illegal immigrants.

The Trump administration has made cracking down on illegal immigration and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border hallmark issues since the time the president hit the campaign trail. 

Trump regularly derides the U.S. as having the “worst” laws of anywhere in the world, and frequently calls on Congress to pass legislation restricting illegal immigration and reforming legal immigration programs.

—Updated at 4:22 p.m.