Chuck Grassley, Steve King blame immigration laws for Iowa killings

Linh Ta

An Iowa mother and her two children would be alive today if immigration laws were enforced in the United States, Rep. Steve King said in a YouTube video posted Thursday.

On the anniversary of the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant, King said a lack of enforcement failed Tibbetts, too.

"So now, we have three in the morgue in Des Moines today," said King, R-Iowa. "It's a sad, sad day to commemorate the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts."

Marvin Oswaldo Esquivel-Lopez, 31, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder for Tuesday night's triple homicide just north of downtown Des Moines.

Police say he killed three housemates: Rossibeth Flores-Rodriguez, 29; her daughter, Grecia Daniela Alvarado-Flores, 11; and her son, Ever Jose Mejia-Flores, 5. 

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Wednesday that the accused is known to ICE as Marvin Oswaldo Escobar-Orellana, a man who returned to the U.S. after being deported to Guatemala in 2010 and 2011.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for details on Esquivel-Lopez's immigration history Thursday evening.

“The ugly act of violence that claimed the lives of a mother and her two children in Des Moines this week is shocking and heartbreaking. What’s worse, it appears that laws in place to protect against such violence failed this young family,” Grassley said. “It is crucial we understand how someone who had been twice deported from this country was able to re-enter for at least a third time and commit such an act of senseless violence. This case demonstrates yet again the need for Congress to take action to more effectively secure our border and keep dangerous criminals from so easily entering the United States.”

King said the suspect in the triple homicide "must have been turned into the streets," instead of ICE when police previously cited him. This could have prevented the deaths, King claims.

Iowa court records show a handful of traffic tickets for Esquivel-Lopez. He appeared in court Monday, a day before the shootings, and agreed to pay more than $1,400 in fines and fees related to a May traffic incident in which he was cited for failure to maintain control and driving without a license or proof of insurance.

Marvin Oswaldo Esquivel-Lopez, 31, has been charged with three counts of murder for allegedly shooting a young mother and her two children.

King also criticized "sanctuary cities," which keep limited contact with federal immigration enforcement agencies, and said Congress has had opportunities to tighten immigration laws.

King proposed the "Diamond and Silk Act" in 2019 to penalize and re-direct federal funding away from sanctuary cities. He proposed "Kate's Law" in 2017, which would have imposed a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any illegal reentry offense.

The bills did not pass through Congress.

"There are thousands of graves across this countryside that are there because we didn't enforce immigration law," King said.

Linh Ta covers news and business for the Des Moines Register. Reach her at lta@dmreg.com

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Steve King, Chuck Grassley blame immigration laws for Iowa killings