DES MOINES, Iowa -- Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across the country didn't zero-in on Iowa, but Zuli Garcia, of Des Moines, says the fear is present.
"Right now they are afraid of everything, to be honest with you. If they are a witness in something, if they are hurt or if someone is harassing them, they are afraid to come forward because they think they will get in trouble," said Garcia.
Des Moines police officers close to the Latino community, like Sgt. Yanira Scarlett, can feel it too. "They believe that we are assisting a federal agency," said Scarlett.
On Tuesday, over 50 Des Moines police officers and residents hosted a community event at the East Side Public Library to bring clarity. "Making sure that people that live in our community that no matter what race, where they come from, what age they are, that they know they can come talk to us," said Scarlett.
Even if a resident is worried about documentation for themselves or maybe family members, Des Moines police will not be asking about U.S. citizenship. Scarlett said, "No, absolutely not. That is not what we should be doing nor is that what we want to do and it is not how we work."
Garcia says for some families, waiting for the legal process before crossing the border for a better life is not an option. Garcia said, "My husband was undocumented up to three years ago and it took us a year, year and a half for his process and cost us over $10,000."
The meeting has whole families left feeling relieved. "The police have been very honest with us to help us," Garcia said.
The Des Moines Police Department tries to hold these meetings quarterly. Some meetings have reached 500 people. One detail proving almost as vital as the information given out, is the location. Scarlett said, "The East Side Library is one of two in the city of Des Moines that have a great Hispanic or Latino population that comes in."
It's a colorful population that Des Moines police assured they simply see as Iowan. "If you work here, live here, shop here, your kids go to school here, you are here in the city of Des Moines. My patch says city of Des Moines and that is who I work for," said Scarlett.
The Ankeny Police Department also attended the meeting. Several other agencies across the state have also reached out to Des Moines about the outreach program.