- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Homeland Security officials said they can find no evidence that Cristhian Rivera got permission to be in the U.S., pushing back Wednesday against the novel legal claims of the lawyer for the man accused of killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts.

Mr. Rivera’s legal status has become a major question since authorities charged him with first degree murder.

His lawyer argued in court Wednesday that Mr. Rivera came to the U.S. as a juvenile and “has complied with his documented status since arriving.” He also pointed to Mr. Rivera’s employer, an Iowa farmer, who said Mr. Rivera cleared the government’s E-Verify process.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it has no record of Mr. Rivera.

“A search of records by USCIS revealed Rivera did not make any DACA requests nor were any grants given. We have found no record in our systems indicating he has any lawful immigration status,” said USCIS spokesman Michael J. Bars.

The Tibbetts killing and charges against Mr. Rivera have enflamed the immigration debate, with President Trump blaming a broken immigration system for the death.

Allan M. Richards, Mr. Rivera’s lawyer, said those comments have soured the case. He asked for a gag order from a judge ordering the government to refer to Mr. Rivera as a “documented resident.”

The lawyer also referred to the president as “Sad and Sorry Trump” in his court filing.

The lawyer’s claim of legal status for Mr. Rivera is based on a statement by Craig Lang, the farmer who employed the 24-year-old, and who said he cleared E-Verify.

“Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction, and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statements,” the lawyer said.

E-Verify is only a check of work authorization. Employers can run their new hires through the system to weed out people not authorized to work.

But experts said it’s possible for illegal immigrants to beat E-Verify by stealing an American’s or legal immigrant’s name, Social Security number and birth date.

“This is a known flaw,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA, which advocates for immigration restrictions. “There’s an entire black market in legitimate identities that illegal aliens can buy or steal for themselves.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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