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After-School Program Warns Latino Community of ICE Raids in Central Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Rumors of immigration raids are circulating throughout the Latino community in Des Moines.

One after school program is using social media to alert members of the Latino community about these alleged raids.

The group is called Al Exito! They're an after school program that focuses on setting minority students up for success in college and beyond. They say part of that education is what's going on around them in the community.

The warnings come in the form of Facebook status updates, letting its followers hear about the alleged spotting of immigration agents.

“We're about information, we're about giving knowledge to people, whether that's how to get to college, or ICE is here, we've seen the sightings, someone was getting picked up” said Dawin Martinez Oropeza.

Oropeza is the executive director of Al Exito!, and says when a member of a student's family gets deported, their life is turned upside down.

“Some of the students take on the leadership role of the household and their siblings, some move in with cousins, some just stay and take care of their younger siblings and take on full-time jobs” said Oropeza.

Oropeza says that can lead to failing grades and gets in the way of success stories like Jose Espinoza.  Espinoza is a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Mexico.  He struggled in school once holding a 1.5 GPA and considered dropping out.  Jose just received straight A’s and is pursuing a PhD. He thanks Al Extio! for putting him on that path.

“I think it's one of the most important things that everyone needs, we accept anyone, it doesn't matter your race your color, anything; anyone can come and be part of our family as we call it. I think it's really important because they teach you a lot of things that schools forget to teach you” said Espinoza.

Some of those things include resume building, job interview skills, and cover letter writing. Al Exito! is funded by several organizations including United Way, Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group and the Chrysalis Foundation.

United Way of Central Iowa says their money goes strictly to Al Exito!'s education programs and nothing else.

We as United Way don't invest in organizations; we invest in programs, and with Al Exito! we invest in middle school and after school programs. So that is where our funding goes, it's restricted to those activities.

Immigration lawyer Jim Benzoni says tipping people off to ICE activity isn’t illegal.

“I don’t know anything illegal about that, any more than truckers on the CV telling them where the speed traps are” said Benzoni.

The Polk County Sherriff’s office says they are unaware of any ICE activity; however ICE agents are not required to notify the county.