CCI Action Fund members talk Latino issues with Polk Co. Sheriff

CCI Action Fund members held a candidate briefing with Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy, where they discussed the role of Latino immigrants in the county, controversial statements from candidate Dan Charleston, and the Sheriff’s long term vision for a rapidly diversifying county.

“My experience with the Hispanic community has been positive,” said McCarthy, “I know there are criminals like I know they are in every culture. But if we are public servants, we need to be responsible to the community’s needs like we would everyone else,” he said.

Members asked questions ranging from how the Sheriff is coordinating with local police on issues like crime or checking immigration papers, as well as the Sheriff’s response to candidate Dan Charleston’s public statements about “drug cartels and gang violence” in the community, as a result of undocumented immigration. We had also invited Charleston for an issue briefing earlier this month, but he declined.

“In our jail, over 50% of the faces are white. Twenty-five percent are black and 14 percent are Hispanic,” said McCarthy. “Even though only 14 percent [of people in Polk County Jail] are Hispanic, this is who Charleston says, on his website, is doing most of the drug trafficking,” he said.

“Dan Charleston seems like a copycat Sheriff Arpaio and we don’t need that here,” said CCI Action Fund member Pat Douglass.

“We don’t need a Sheriff salivating over the chance to incarcerate people of our community, said CCI Action Fund member Nataly Espinoza in a letter to the editor published in the Des Moines Register and on Latino daily El Enfoque on October 4.

Latinos in the meeting asked if local law enforcement could act as immigration agents. “We will not do their work for them. But that position is constantly under attack,” said McCarthy. He said he belongs to the Chiefs and Sheriffs Association of Polk County and the group agreed that they will not act as ICE agents. McCarthy explained that the government has offered a program called 287(g) which would deputize local law enforcement as ICE, but no departments in Polk County have signed up for that.

When asked about ICE holds at the county jail, usually triggered by the federal Secure Communities program, McCarthy said that the current policy will keep honoring them. ICE holds keep undocumented immigrants in immigration custody, even after they have made bail.

Members asked about the term “constitutional sheriff” often used by the Charleston campaign. “We live in a constitutional republic, and we all hold this as a sacred document,” said McCarthy.“But anybody that would say they are more constitutional or more patriotic is trying to divide us,” he said. “I think that represents an extreme view that is not good for our society, and reflects an extremism that can get people hurt.” McCarthy said this indicates a mentality that thinks not all in our society have the same value.

“Immigrants like myself and many of us are essential to Polk County. We are here to work hard, to raise our children and to keep building the Iowa we want to see. We are here and we are staying,” said CCI Action Fund member Victor Torres.

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