A packed crowd of over 115 CCI members and others met with Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Des Moines Police Captain Todd Dykstra and Lt. Joe Gonzalez Nov. 2 to voice concerns about fair treatment and to ask Sheriff McCarthy to end participation in a federal program inaptly named “Secure Communities”.

Dozens shared their stories and the Sheriff and Police Departments felt our unity and heard our message loud and clear. In the meeting McCarthy stated that the county will not fingerprint for misdemeanors – a move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations – saying, “We believe our job is to investigate and solve crimes and we cannot do that if you are afraid to talk to us.”

“It’s good to know the law enforcement wants to hear from the Latino community. Everyone deserves to feel safe. It’s better for all the whole community,” said member Natalie Espinoza (photo) from Des Moines, who shared her story.

We got several commitments and clarifications from local law enforcement. Most notably:

  • Sheriff McCarthy announced that the Polk County Jail will not fingerprint those brought in for misdemeanors. This is a big win and a bold move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations under “Secure Communities”. If undocumented immigrants are not fingerprinted then their information is not sent to ICE. His announcement comes after months of CCI and like-minded groups working to denounce “Secure Communities” in the media, at the city  meetings, and to Sheriff McCarthy directly.
  • Police officers may not ask for anything more than a license, car registration, and proof of insurance. Meaning, they cannot ask about immigration status. Police Lt. Joe Gonzalez passed out official complaint forms so people can come forward and make a complaint if they feel they have been racial profiling or are bullied about immigration status.
  • Sheriff meetingSheriff McCarthy (photo) committed to send an officer to the Iowa CCI office if anyone wants to make a complaint about treatment at the Polk County Jail. And, Chief Sheriff Deputy Victor Munoz reaffirmed that you do not need to be documented to visit family in the jail, all they need to bring is some form of ID.
  • Des Moines Police told the audience that everyone has the right to an interpreter so they know why they were stopped and/or what they are being charged with. An officer cannot deny access to an interpreter and officers should be carrying cell phones with a translation service with them at all times.

We will be following up with the Sheriff on the specifics of his new fingerprinting policy. And, as always, we will be holding both departments accountable to their own rules. When they will not call an interpreter or if they ask about someone’s immigration status, CCI members will be there to make the complaints and hold them accountable.

Thanks for a great meeting! If you attended, we would love to hear your thoughts.