Mollie Tibbetts's mom has taken in a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant

In the four months since investigators charged an undocumented immigrant with the death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, the vitriol surrounding the tragedy has mostly died down. But the mother of the Iowa student — who disappeared while out jogging — is still pushing back against the angry rhetoric it drew from President Trump, specifically by taking in a teenage undocumented immigrant.

The Washington Post broke the news Friday in a profile of Tibbetts’s mom, Laura Calderwood, who is still reeling after the death of her daughter. Described as a “lifelong liberal,” the 55-year-old Calderwood says she was angered when Trump used her daughter’s death as a rallying cry to fix the immigration system. “You saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman…,” Trump said during a rally in West Virginia, just hours after police arrested Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the alleged killer. “The laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace.”

Multiple family members spoke out against Trump’s comments at the time — including the victim’s father — saying that it was the opposite of what Tibbetts would have wanted. But for the remaining undocumented immigrants living at Yarrabee Farms, where Rivera worked, it was too late. Hate mail, threatening phone calls and legitimate threats reportedly began pouring in, warning the undocumented immigrants who remained there that they would be either deported or killed.

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Missing Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts found dead
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Missing Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts found dead
A ribbon for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs on a light post, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
This undated photo provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety shows Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Authorities said on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, that they have charged a man living in the U.S. illegally with murder in the death of Iowa college student, Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared a month ago while jogging in a rural area. Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Rick Rahn said that Rivera, 24, was charged with murder in the death of Tibbetts. (Iowa Department of Public Safety via AP)
A county truck blocks a gravel road, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, near Brooklyn, Iowa. Police say a body believed to be that of 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts has been discovered in a rural area near where she went missing last month. University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
People in the courtroom reacts after Cristhian Bahena Rivera's initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, Pool)
(Photo via Facebook)
Cristhian Bahena Rivera speaks with his attorney during his initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, Pool)
(Photo via Instagram)
A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
My first experience as a best man went well🎉
Cristhian Bahena Rivera is escorted into the Poweshiek County Courthouse for his initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
You guys really thought I was gonna let a birthday pass without a selfie?😎 (posting a day after but I took it on my birthday so whatever)
Just a Hawkeye with her hot guy 💛🖤
A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs on the front door of a local business, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Police say a body believed to be that of 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts has been discovered in a rural area near where she went missing last month.Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Happiest of birthdays to the person who made track bearable. Of all of the laps we ran together, the last one was the hardest (even if we made it the slowest) because we were ending quite an era😉 You are such a happy, hardworking, and genuine person, and I'm so lucky I get to call you my friend. Happy birthday my dude 😘😊
A ribbon for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs on a light post, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Police say a body believed to be that of 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts has been discovered in a rural area near where she went missing last month. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cristhian Bahena Rivera is escorted into the Poweshiek County Courthouse for his initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Currently wishing I was exploring water falls with best friend instead of sitting in an airport
A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
I can't think of a caption but New York is cool
A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Tibbetts was reported missing from her hometown in the eastern Iowa city of Brooklyn in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cristhian Bahena Rivera is lead into the courtroom for his initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, Pool)
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Terrified by the threats, many of the workers chose to flee — including the parents of Ulises Felix, a 17-year-old high schooler and classmate of Tibbetts’s brother, Scott. When Felix found himself alone on the farm, he texted Scott asking for help. That prompted an unorthodox request from Scott to his mom: Could the family take in Felix? Calderwood’s decision, it seems, was guided by her late daughter.

“The immigrant families who worked there were fleeing,” Washington Post writer Terrence McCoy said. “Laura thought of Mollie. She would argue that the farmworkers didn’t deserve this, that they were only trying to earn a living. What would she say about Ulises? Bring him in? Laura thought that his father may be undocumented and worried about attracting unwanted attention, but again, what would Mollie say?”

Calderwood ultimately concluded that what her daughter would want is for her family to treat Felix like any other human being and give him shelter. So, just months after an undocumented immigrant pleaded not guilty to killing her daughter, Calderwood agreed to give Felix a temporary home. He is now staying in the family’s spare bedroom, finishing his final year of high school.

In the hours since the article was released, many on Twitter have begun praising Calderwood’s selflessness — and ability to be gracious in the midst of tragedy. “Even after the most horrific violent tragedy happens to someone you love, it’s still possible not to be a hateful racist who stereotypes and generalizes about an entire group of marginalized, oppressed people. #mollietibbetts” wrote one Twitter user. “Such an example for all of us,” added another.

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