Craig Lang, co-owner of Yarrabee Farms, left, speaks to the press with his son and co-owner Dane Lang, on their families farm on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018 in Brooklyn. Cristhian Rivera, a former employee at the farm has been charged with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts. (Brian Powers /The Des Moines Register via AP)

Iowa slaying focuses attention on immigrants in agriculture

August 24, 2018 - 12:40 am

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The arrest of a Mexican farmworker in the death of an Iowa college student renewed calls to change immigration laws. But it also focused attention on the immigrant workers whose labor is essential to the state's agricultural industry.

Hours after authorities found the body of Mollie Tibbetts, some Republican politicians including President Donald Trump expressed outrage that the suspect, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, had been able to live illegally in the U.S. for years. They urged a wider crackdown on illegal immigration.

The response from farming groups was more muted, reflecting the difficulty in hiring people for physically demanding work at dairies, slaughterhouses and other facilities.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley acknowledged that some of the most intense opposition has come from the agriculture industry because of its need for workers.

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