116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HILLS - The Johnson County Sheriff's Office is running into an unexpected problem in investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in the Iowa River last week.
'We know that people are not answering the door when we're standing at them,” Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said Friday.
Pulkrabek believes people are not talking with his investigators in the death investigation of 30-year-old Darling Yosseli Acosta Rivera because they are concerned the questions will turn to their own immigration status. It prompted Pulkrabek to address the issue in a news release Friday.
'The Sheriff's Office does not enforce immigration laws,” he said in the release. 'That is the responsibility of federal authorities commonly known as ICE. The Sheriff's Office is not interested in a person's immigration status, but we are interested in talking to friends, family and acquaintances of (Rivera).”
The sheriff's office responded to a report of a woman's body in the Iowa River near the Hills Access campground on Feb. 16. On Friday, Pulkrabek announced they had identified the woman as Rivera, an Iowa City resident. But authorities are still trying to piece together what happened to her.
Pulkrabek said Friday investigators don't yet know whether foul play was a factor.
Rivera was identified by her fingerprints, Pulkrabek said. He doesn't know her immigration status.
'Nor are we all that concerned with it,” he said. 'We're just trying to figure out what happened.”
Pulkrabek said he is 'absolutely” certain the reason some people did not answer the door for investigators was because they are concerned about immigration issues. He can't blame them, he said, citing recent reports of raids involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
'The new president, with the stuff he's saying, I think people are scared,” Pulkrabek said.
This past week, President Donald Trump's administration rolled out new guidelines that are intended as a road map toward implementing a pair of executive actions Trump signed last month, call for the hiring of thousands of additional enforcement agents, expanding the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speeding up deportation hearings and enlisting local law enforcement to help make arrests.
Trump on Tuesday insisted the measures are not intended to produce 'mass deportations.”
Just today, in a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump told the audience, 'The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that put and will put its own citizens first.” That prompted chants of 'U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
The president also reprised his core campaign promise of building a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
'For too long, we've traded away our jobs to other countries. We've defended other nations' borders while leaving ours wide open,” Trump said, prompting cries to 'build a wall.” Trump pledged the construction of the wall on the U.S. border with Mexico would begin soon, even though it is unclear where the money to pay for it will come from.
'We're going to build a wall, don't worry about it,” the president said.
Pulkrabek said investigative issues like he's now facing have come up in the past, but it's never been this prevalent. Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said his deputies have not had any issues with people refusing to speak with them, but noted the large concentrations of Hispanic people in the county are generally covered by municipal departments.
The only questions that will come up during interviews about the ongoing investigation of Rivera's death will be related to that case, Pulkrabek stressed. He asks anyone with information on Rivera to call the Johnson County Sheriff's Office Investigations Division at (319) 356-6020 or the tip line at (319) 354-3729.
- The Washington Post contributed to this report.
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