“Where Are Your Papers?” A Westporter Reacts

Alert “06880” reader Robert Birge is a marketing professional, investor and entrepreneur. He’s lived in Westport “almost 9 years, non-contiguously.” His activities include “regular consumption of food at our fine restaurants, chasing around 4 children, and trying to drive courteously.”

Last week, his kids’ nanny told him a disturbing story. Robert explains:

Someone she identified as a police officer asked her for her “papers” while waiting at the Westport train station. It happens that she is Latina. It also happens that she is a citizen of these United States of America.

Regrettably, we likely won’t learn who perpetrated this indignity. After a thorough investigation, Westport Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Vincent Penna strongly believe that whoever harassed our nanny is not a Westport police officer.

I’m not entirely convinced. However, I believe their view is reasonable, and I respect they have a different vantage point. I can only say it’s unclear who stopped her, and that there are sound reasons to doubt it was a Westport officer.

I find the details uninteresting now. That she suffered this indignity saddens me. Our nanny is a wonderful person. She cares for our 3 young boys as if they were her own. She’s exceedingly competent and industrious, and she always wears a smile. She’s the proud mother of two UConn graduates. Our community is fortunate to count her as a member.

Immigrants, legal and likely illegal, provide significant support to our rarefied town. While our community has time to wage fiery debates over high school essays on white privilege and unearned advantages, hundreds of immigrants make their way to Westport every morning to care for our children, clean our homes, tend our lavish gardens, and help build our beautiful houses. Westport would not be Westport without them. Any view to the contrary is patently false.

I grew up in New Mexico and Colorado. I learned at a young age to treasure the contributions and culture of the Hispanic community, along with every other group that has come to this country and helped make it great.

I’m also a vocal “member” of #TheResistance. I realize not everyone in Westport shares my views, but the voting patterns and my impressions of the typical Westport resident lead me to believe I’m among predominantly like-minded people. Westport is not Maricopa County, Arizona.

Two immediate family members have spent years in the federal criminal justice system. I’m confident this incident would not pass standards for probable cause or equal treatment.

My primary question after hearing this story was: “Is it possible this has spilled over into Westport?” I’m happy to share that Chief Koskinas and Deputy Chief Penna’s actions and words answered that question for me with an unequivocal NO! I also commend them for their responsiveness to a community concern.

I’m told the investigation has not implicated one of our officers, the MTA police or the Amtrak police. That leaves the possibility that a layperson harassed our nanny. I find this possibility more disturbing. I’d rather think that one jerk had a bad day and acted poorly, especially knowing the values coming from Chief Koskinas. If it happens again, I hope the community reports it. I’m confident our police department’s leaders would pursue the culprit vigorously.

I also believe it’s important to discuss a few comments I’ve received asserting that I should have allowed the police to investigate the incident before reporting it on social media. This is a choice we’re all granted as part of our right to speak freely. I respect that others would choose differently, but I stand by my choice. I know my nanny, and I know what she told me.

She was harassed by some racist in my town. I was and remain furious. I also believe the current climate necessitates vigilance toward every incursion on our civil liberties no matter how benign. Further, where should citizens or the press draw that line? If I had recorded a video like the Rodney King incident, should I have withheld the video from the public until a fair trial had been completed? I don’t think so.

Public discourse of wrongdoing and due process under the law are different matters. For example, anyone arrested in Westport will find their name, alleged crime and full color mugshot on Facebook right away. Even if you’re later fully exonerated, the damage done to your reputation would be hard to reverse. While the media surely enjoys the US Attorney’s penchant for high profile perp walks, I feel differently about the Westport police department employing public shaming in our small town. The point is that it’s a choice we all have a right to make.

It’s important to me to close this post with an expression of gratitude toward our police. Like most things in Westport, I believe we’re fortunate when it comes to our police. I’ve always found them to be efficient, extremely present, and friendly. I believe they keep my family safe. My wife Melissa and I intend to raise our children with the same respect for officers of the law that we have, because their position deserves that respect.

48 responses to ““Where Are Your Papers?” A Westporter Reacts

  1. Beautifully said. I am sorry that your nanny had this terrible experience.

  2. Not in my town when we have an amazing police force led by Chief Koskinas. We all are immigrants and to think otherwise is a sign of ignorance. This is unacceptable… period.
    I grew up in India, but have called this little part of the country home for over 20 years… it surprised and shocked me someone stopped in at Le Rouge, seemingly very like minded as most of us and gave me the advice that if me or my family feel that we are being discriminated due to the color of our skin,we have a “choice to go back” where we came from….. to which my answer was “where do you plan to move back to……”
    So Robert, I agree with you that we need to Stand up, speak up and be absolutely clear that this type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable….

  3. Susan Iseman

    So sorry your family experienced this indignity. With all of the controversy over the Muslim ban, the wall, and the activities of ICE, it makes me wonder if Westport is a “sanctuary city”?

  4. Mark Yurkiw

    I’m sitting at my laptop reading what I couldn’t imagine happening in Westport. It has literally stunned me and left me frightened. First I thought I was reading the introduction to a movie script about WW2 experiences. Thank you for spending the time to write a thoughtful article, it must have been very difficult to find the reasonable words to express such a shocking experience. It still leaves me questioning and incredulous could this really have happened in Westport….Westport 2017 ?? OMG! am I so naive?
    (I am an American born son of a woman who received reparations payment from the United Nations for slave labor during WW2)

  5. I’m assuming that they are combing through all possible video cameras in that area ?

  6. Dan Miller

    70,000 women are really this stupid

    http://dailycaller.com/2017/05/08/70k-anti-trump-activists-sign-liberation-pledge-demanding-reparations-open-borders-defunding-of-military/

    That’s how many Pussy caps of the Women’s March” have signed a petition demanding that we open our borders to the world, disband our military, close our prisons and, while we’re at it, pay reparations to back folk.

    • Rozanne Gates

      Dan Miller, make that 70,001. I just signed. Maybe your wife did, too.

      • Dan Miller

        She also voted for Trump.

        • Linda Whitney at Staples

          That your wife voted for Trump only shows what a victim of your tyranny she must be.
          SHE VOTED AGAINST HER OWN SELF INTERESTS!!
          Aren’t you proud of what a bully you are!!

          • Dan Miller

            Ha. She’s been voting Rep since 18. Good try though, dummy.

            • Linda Whitney at Staples

              Why do you say that? Because they aren’t willing to be your pregnant and barefoot ego stroking slaves anymore?
              Too bad Dan.
              Hope your wife doesn’t disappear somehow. You’ll be hard pressed to replace her these days with such ignorance of The truths of life- like equal partnership creates strength of character AND strength of structure for raising the next generations!!

        • Linda Whitney at Staples

          Oh Dan
          I know who you are!!
          You are the promoter of the P. T. Barnum school of debate- if you can’t convince ’em, CONFUSE ’em. Saw many of your posts TELLING WOMEN they are confused!!!
          But, that’s NOT HOW IT GOES!! You have to present FACTS that make a debate seem actually right in both sides. YOU AND YOURS HAVE NI ACTUAL FACTS THAT SUPPORT YOUR ASSERTIONS!! So, YOU MAKE UP LIES AND CALL THEM FACTS!! You guys have been the idiots of the world forever!! ULTIMATELY, you ALWAYS LOSE or none of us would be here now!! Why? Because you are the destroyers and if you win, ALL would be destroyed!!

          • Dan Miller

            Liberalism is dead, so stop.

            • Linda Whitney at Staples

              We will NEVER STOP!!
              Lucky for you.
              AND, who told you it was dead? Some of your lieing friends? Don’t believe their ugly lies, Dan. WE WON THE NUMBERS IN 2016. What do you think is going to happen in 2018? Get ready Dan. Get some REALITY BASED EDUCATION!!

            • Alan Hodge

              I guess that the Dutch, the French and the South Koreans didn’t get that memo. Nor did the preponderance of the US electorate that voted in the November election. To paraphrase Mark Twain, your assertion that liberalism is dead greatly exaggerates the facts.

    • Peter Gambaccini

      Dan Miller, what does ANY of what you say have to do with case Robert Birge is writing about? Not a thing.

    • Linda Whitney at Staples

      Yes Dan
      Make it 70,001. I haven’t signed yet but WILL.
      Open ourselves to the possibilities of conducting life in an intelligent, educated, compassionate manner.
      Maybe we will end up with enough people to swamp guys like you with so much good behavior that you ACTUALLY want to become educated and have your children- poor kids- be educated too!!

      • Dan Miller

        The pink hats and this entire movement is ridiculous and has taken women back many years. Its a shame.

        • Alan Hodge

          in what way would you say that the pink hats and the entire movement has taken women back many years? Also what do you mean by the entire movement?

  7. I am an immigrant. A very fortunate one as I happen to have been born in the ‘right’ country. I will never risk being stopped and asked for my papers. My physical appearance 100% guarantees it.

    It is mind-boggling to think the very same white people who were themselves persecuted or starving left (Europe) built their new country by the forceful enslavement of black slaves kidnapped from their native countries, and the slaughter of native tribes and peoples to whom the land truly had belonged for eons of time. And we talk about illegal immigrants being criminals!

    Our history should make us show compassion for people we still exploit and on whose backs (literally) and under deplorable circumstances our lettuce and other crops are picked, not to mention many (most?) house cleaners, garbage collectors, newspaper deliveries, restaurant workers, nannies etc that work for subpar wages. And in Westport, who weeds and mows our lawns? If we deport them, who will do the work and mow those laws and collect our garbage? Americans? Seriously?

    Interestingly the individuals, businesses, corporations that hire those illegal immigrants are knowingly committing a crime but we don’t talk about the real costs to the economy by their calculated failure to pay taxes, insurance, workers comp, etc etc on people who do backbreaking work so we can buy cheap strawberries, build our beautiful houses and mow our lawns. Can someone please come up with the real numbers and the real cost to the economy.

    Oh, and btw, when I point out, I myself am an immigrant, I have been told ‘yes; but you are different’. Seriously. That is not a joke.

    I was very fortunate being born ‘the right different’. I am eternally grateful and think every day of how very lucky I am. We should all show gratitude…not greed and paranoia. The immigrants are doing what our forefathers did; trying to build a better life for themselves on this land. They are not doing it by backbreaking work no one else wants to do; not by enslavement and exploitation. Instead living in fear of being arrested, deported and families separated from each other. Shame on us.

    eva

  8. Correction to my above post:…’They are DOING it by backbreaking work by backbreaking work no one else wants to do….

  9. David J. Loffredo

    Despicable, sad, but not a new problem.

    I’ve lived near the Westport/Norwalk border for 17 years. Almost every day the WPD have a car pulled over on Kings Highway South / Treadwell – and more often than not the car is a) not a nice shiny German import driven by one of the Westport locals, and b) it’s driven by someone with brown skin. Coincidence?

    As a kid I lived in Grosse Pointe Michigan, fancy white suburb adjacent to Detroit. And guess what we saw on an almost daily basis? That same scene repeated, except the drivers faces were a deeper shade of brown.

    They don’t call it “DWB” for no reason.

    Shameful, but not new, not sure when you’re #TheResistance started, but I think you’re a good 50+ years late to the call.

    • Dan Miller

      And yet when I look at WN.com and they post a story about someone from the Bronx stealing cars, robbing someone, or they had drugs in their car, 99% of the time they’re African American. Weird.

      • Hanne Jeppesen

        You don’t sound like you belong in Westport, in fact I dare say, not sure where you would feel at home, perhaps Germany in thirties?

        • Dan Miller

          I’m a realist and facts are facts.

          • Linda Whitney at Staples

            No.
            you make it obvious that you are a paranoid, underdeveloped, poor self-esteemed, petulant child, as stated in above responses. You fit in well with the fleetingly current Washington Administration and the new old Republican Party that has gerrymandered, lied to its constituents- like you- depressed the vote of huge numbers of citizens, and stolen THIS COUNTRY from the citizens with their back room politics.

            But, now we know, unmistakably, who and what you ALL ARE! AND, we will not suffer your position any longer.
            NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO FROM NOW ON, you WILL BE VOTED OUT EVERY TIME YOU RUN!
            AND, if you keep up. This UNACCEPTABLE activity, you will receive JAIL TIME!
            Hey Dan,
            How about showing your face and ethics- run for office in the open so people in your town can respond to your personal agenda.

          • Alan Hodge

            You seem very sure of the facts. How do you distinguish between truth and fiction?

      • Alan Hodge

        And your point is?

  10. There is a great deal of hysteria and misinformation on display in this thread, but then, there is a lot of that going around.

    • Russell Gontar

      Yeah, and almost all of the deliberate misinformation is coming from the fake president and his Russian cabal. Why don’t you enlighten us all with the misinformation in this thread?

      • There is no Muslim ban. Legal immigrants are not being threatened with deportation. When Obama was the deporter in chief, there was no weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. The hysteria is borne of politics not principled opposition to policy.

      • According to Senator Feinstein, there is no evidence of a Russian “cabal”. So, more disinformation.

        • Linda Whitney at Staples

          You are just not privy to the evidence yet. The people who are charged will be convicted on evidence, there are TOO MANY SMOKING GUNS.

          THEN, even you will hear the evidence even though you will refuse to believe it- refuse to know the truth. YOU ARE The ones who TRULY CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH!! Quite a flip , eh?
          And what do you think about your mentor turning to the Russians to secure his appointment?
          Is that good business for you?
          Remember, he TOLD us at that time that if he didn’t win the election, that would prove that it was rigged! Is tgat because he knew it was already rigged in his favor? Like a child, he telegraphs ALL OF HIS PUNCHES!! He does it all if the time. We just have to believe him. It’s VERY HARD TO DO. Most people can’t believe that someone is so EVIL in this day and age. So stupidly and outrageously GREEDY and evil. We just have to believe the truth about you guys, then you will be gone by unanimous consent!!

  11. Linda Whitney at Staples

    Mr. Birge says so many VERY IMPORTANT THINGS for the CIVIC COMMUNITY to hear in these times of FALSE BELIEFS PROMOTED BY THE COUNTRY’s CURRENT SICK ADMINISTRATION.
    FIRST AND FOREMOST SPEAK OUT!!
    Citizens speaking out against what is WRONG DOING that they encounter, no matter what is being done or by whom, is THE ONLY PROTECTION WE HAVE FROM THE THEIVES WHO WORK IN THE DARKNESS OF THE BACK ROOMS TRYING TO STEAL OUR COMMUNITIES and THE BASIC AMERICAN ETHIC THAT WE ELDERS LEARNED IN GRAMMAR SCHOOL!!!

    UNFORTUNATELY, we have entered the POST ENRON ERA of business- the smartest ones in the room are the biggest and most successful Thieves!!
    Our current (small p- he doesn’t earn a capital in ANY WAY) president is the model for the worst business practice since the Dark Ages of Kings and Feudal Lords!! He WILL kill us all after he rapes and pillages in every town including Westport. (Why? Because there are too many of us and, he believes there will be a food shortage for him if we all stay around!)

    YOUR WORST will come out of the woodwork under his protection no matter what the sane and respectful majority citizenry do and, obviously, no matter what the percentage of the population they comprise. (Have you noticed how like the bully on the playground they act- Seeking out the most vulnerable looking so they can “lord it over” someone? Who do you think they might be in your population?)

    Whoever they are, point at them. YELL BULLY!! Tell an “adult”- someone in authority- IMMEDIATELY. They ARE the ones who will try to punish everyone for their failure when this nightmare is over.
    Identify them now COMPLETELY so that they will not be able to go back to the dark reaches later to keep their sabotage going of what should be normal life moving toward a better humanity.

  12. Back in 1984, my husband came here illegally from Mexico to work for one of the Westport Mexican restaurants. We both were in the process of working with the International Institute in Bridgeport to get his Green card. They helped us with the paperwork so he could go back to Mexico and get a passport and come back here and get working papers and finish up getting his Green card. One evening he was walking home over the bridge after work. He had on his headphones and did not hear the Police in their car telling him to stop. He kept on walking and they got out of their car and grabbed him, threw him against their car and handcuffed him. He had no idea what they were doing this for and was understandably upset.
    I got a call from him telling me to come down to the Police station to get him out.
    He had his working papers on him, yet they still treated him like a criminal.
    Their excuse was that they had a report of somebody fitting his description who had committed a crime, and when he didn’t stop when they told him to, they proceeded to bully him.
    Even though he had his papers, we still had the inconvenience of having to deal with this mistreatment because he was Mexican. Having grown up in Westport I was very sad about this whole ordeal, it was not what I would expect from this town.
    This was not the only incident of racism though. Looking for an apartment, I was calling around to realtors. One of them was very nice and helpful until I told her our last name. As soon as I gave an Hispanic last name all the sudden, there were no apartments available for “Our Kind”…Unbelieveable ! So much for how accepting my town was for other cultures…

    • Linda Whitney at Staples

      These are the stinking truths that no one wants to hear!!
      AND, if you won’t hear them, you WON’T FIX THEM!!

      Is that Westport TODAY?
      I’m sorry to say it WAS WESTPORT in the 60s. BUT, Westport was also a town being born into activism then with Civil Rights activists throughout the artist population.
      NOW, the population seems to be largely educated and trying to support moving toward compassionate civil understanding.
      PLEASE. You CAN stand to hear the truth. AND, you can support yourselves, your children, and your grandchildren in moving toward the civil society that we know is right and valuable and makes life worth living.

  13. as a former Westporter (1936- 1955), who now lives far enough away from
    your local fascists not to worry concerning retaliation, let me just say this:
    trump= Hitler
    pence= Goebbels

  14. Gene Borio

    Texas just enacted Senate Bill 4, which allows local law enforcement officers to question almost anyone about their immigration status if they “look undocumented” (ie, are profiled; hardly any visiting Swedes or Swiss will be asked, I bet).

    I don’t get how this is constitutional.

    But no wonder many of our neighbors are frightened to leave the house.

    Thanks, Robert, for making us aware that this might be happening. I will now be on the lookout to help if I see someone who might be being harassed. And I’ll take pics!

  15. This thread has run its course. Comments are closed.