ICE Raids: Police Chief Explains Westport’s Stance

On Thursday — a few days before ICE may begin arresting members of undocumented families, including nearby immigrants who are not targets of raids — the Westport Police Department issued a press release.

The department noted its strict adherence to the Connecticut Trust Act, which defines the circumstances and duration under which a prisoner in the custody of state or local police or corrections can be held.

The WPD added that it “recognizes and truly values the diversity of the community we serve, and seeks to foster an environment of trust…. This agency will always treat all with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

Today, Police Chief Foti Koskinas — a first-generation immigrant from Greece — expanded on his department’s statement.

He is concerned that the lessons of history have not been learned. In another era, he says, police departments used fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators. Those experiences — and the images of them — stigmatized law enforcement. That distrust has lingered, in some cases for decades.

“Law enforcement should be the last to intervene in social and political issues — if ever,” Koskinas says.

“The primary role of law enforcement is to serve. Very infrequently, our role is to protect, and help create an environment where all members of our community can thrive. But when we do need to protect people, they must be able to trust us.”

The population recently targeted by ICE is “people we welcome into our community,” Koskinas says. “We employ them. They are our neighbors. We hold up the ideal that Westport, our state and country are places where they can contribute and enrich their lives, their families’ lives, and all of our lives. If they work hard and give their families better lives than where they came from, they can succeed.”

However, he continues, “others wearing badges then turn around and wipe that away with threats and raids. We separate families, detain and deport them. We are better than this. We have to find better ways of dealing with this situation.”

Koskinas is hardly soft on crime. Criminals will be treated as criminals, no matter what their immigration status, he notes. Anyone who puts Westport at risk — who victimizes residents and visitors — will face consequences.

However, he notes, being in this country undocumented is not a criminal offense. It’s a violation of immigration (civil) law — not criminal law.

That’s why local police departments don’t ask about immigration status, or arrest undocumented people.

To serve and protect everyone in town — residents, employees, visitors and anyone passing through — the police must have their trust. They gain it by treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Not, Koskinas emphasizes, by turning them over to ICE for family separation and deportation.

41 responses to “ICE Raids: Police Chief Explains Westport’s Stance

  1. Dan, Foti is just the kind of law enforcement officer Westport needs. His respect for the law, tempered with compassion and the knowledge that we’re essentially all immigrants (himself included), makes him someone in whom we can and should take real pride. Well done, Chief.

  2. Michael D. Moore

    Amen, Brother.
    M. D. Moore

    • Laurie and Roy Witkin

      We are so proud of Westport’s police chief.
      He exemplifies compassion and understanding of the law. We are all immigrants and must remember that this is what has made our country strong for hundreds of years . Other countries counted on us to set the example, but what they see now is children separated from their families and put into cages. If you were being threatened, would you not risk your life to provide food and safety for your children?
      Thank you, Chief of Police, for your humanity and leadership.
      And thank you, Dan Woog, for highlighting the Chief’s statement.
      Laurie and Roy Witkin

  3. You people need to follow the rule of law. If you or I were ordered by a judge to do something we would do it. The illegal immigrants who are being deported need to go and the police need to enforce the rule of law. We can not live in a world where we select the laws that we want to follow. If you don’t like the law then get the feckless, lazy politicians to change them.

    • We have another winner: 2 tickets to Les Mis. Enjoy the show.

    • Perhaps you missed the crucial fact that being an illegal immigrant is not a criminal offense, it’s a civil offense. And not one that local police get involved in, unless someone is actually committing a crime, no matter what their status. Everything else in your post is irrelevant after that except of course — VOTE.

      • Luciano Morelli

        Are you sure? Violations under Title 8, Section 1325 is a civil offense? Prison time possible for violating this section – illegal entry by an alien. Seems like a criminal matter, but I am no lawyer.

        • Kristan Hamlin

          Mr. Morelli– Both criminal and civil: See https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1325
          It is a federal law, just like Title VII is a federal law, or Sarbanes Oxley, RICO, the Mann Act, the 13th Amendment, etc.

          There can be consequences for states and towns that refuse to enforce federal law, like the Little Rock case, when Eisenhower sent in troops to enforce federal law, or when JFK federalized the AL state guard to uphold the Supreme Ct’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and integrate the Univ. of AL and make Gov. Wallace step aside.

          However, states can offer a state constitution with MORE constitutional rights than what is provided at the federal level. But states cannot enforce state laws that violate the minimum constitutional rights guaranteed by the US constitution.
          The question here may turn on whether the state of CT has offered greater constitutional rights on this issue than that afforded under federal law.

      • There are so many far left to far right battles on these stories. Simply put, the Westport Police with Its Chief do an insanely great job making this community better. Nobody should challenge any of our first responders to take a political stance. Their stance is to always choose whats best for the Westport community, within the law. We live in a bubble in the northeast and very few people really have any idea what is different about immigration control in this presidency vs others. Everybody listens to their party’s words and what is on the news. Infighting in Westport for nothing more than political debate that affects no change is wasteful and harmful and senseless. Lets get back to being a happy town where people get along. Those passionate about the cause, go to DC or go to the border or raise funding where you can make change happen!

    • Richard Fogel

      how would you like a speeding ticket for every time you went over the speeding ticket? or getting imprisoned for every detail n your tax return you filed falsely?

    • Eleanor Sasso

      Absolutely, Hank!
      These people have had their day in court and were ordered by a judge to leave the country. They did not. Therefore they must be escorted out.
      We are the most humane country in the world. Imagine how much we have spent already on people who have been afforded due process and refuse to obey the law. We are spending more on ICE salaries and transport to send them HOME.
      This insanity must stop!

  4. Hank – To paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall – I couldn’t disagree more, but I will defend your right to say it. I agree with M.D. Moore – Amen, Brother!

  5. Clark Thiemann

    This is a wonderful, thoughtful statement. Thanks Chief.

  6. police officers using fire hoses on Black Americans (Foti’s analogous reference) was actually in violation of the law at the time, and was instead a hateful and racist act. On the other hand, refusing to enforce the law regarding those who have come across a US border illegally, which was enforced during the Obama, Bush, and Clinton admistrations (and enforced by all of our neighbor countries), is also illegal.

    The police do not get to decide which laws they will or won’t enforce; if the people decide that a law should be changed, there is a legislative process for that, via our elected representatives.

    • If and when this law has been enforced over the years, it was done by federal officers, not local departments. That’s the point the Chief is making…not a criminal act and therefore not under their purview. In addition, previous deportations were of actual criminals, not the wholesale deportation of families, some of whose members are NOT here illegally.

    • kristan Hamlin

      Jack– See my response to Mr. Morelli above.

    • David Stalling

      While it’s true, as you mention, that the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations enforced immigration laws (as did Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan) there were huge differences in their policies than were seeing today.

      Those administrations made intentional decisions to focus on immigrants found guilty of criminal offenses and on recent immigrants who had not yet established strong ties to the U.S. They overlooked, and made exceptions for immigrants who had been in the U.S. for a long time and had families, jobs and strong ties to the U.S.

      Reagan, for example, granted amnesty to about three million undocumented immigrants. Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There was a bit more flexibility and compassion in their policies.

      The current administration has brought significant changes in attitude and enforcement, with little of any consideration given to children or immigrants with families and strong ties to the U.S. In addition, the current administration has brought about many other changes including: Banning nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States; Cancelling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is currently providing work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children; Ending the designation of Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, and signaled that Hondurans and possibly Salvadorans may also lose their work authorization and protection from removal in 2018 . . . To name a few.

      In regards to local law enforcement being required to enforce federal laws, many legal scholars have disagreed, stating — in sum — that the use of local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws are unfunded mandates that impose additional disproportionate responsibilities on local law enforcement, increase financial liability on local governments, negatively effects police-community relations, and ultimately moves us further from our foundational principles of federalism.

      Obviously, that’s open to interesting debate among constitutional and legal scholars. There’s a lot of good arguments coming from the various sides. But it’s certainly not as clear cut as you suggest.

      I do agree that we should all work through our elected officials to change, clarify and reform immigration laws.

  7. They don’t come much better then Chief Koskians. This town is very lucky to have him…..Thanks Chief !!!!!

  8. They don’t come much better than Chief Koskinas. This town is very lucky to have him.

  9. Back in 1984 my husband who had come to the USA illegally from Mexico was in the process of getting his Green card with the help of the International Institute in Bridgeport. He had working papers and was walking home after work one night, he had his headphones on and was listening to music. He was rudely grabbed by the Wspt. police and had no idea what was going on. They took him to the station in handcuffs. I got a call from them telling me to come down to talk to them. Turns out they were looking for somebody else who was the same height with dark hair as my husband. They were not going to let him go even though he had his papers with him, not until I got there and they questioned me.
    Also when I called about an apartment, I was given the information about location, rent etc. When the agent asked me for our name, when I told her she all the sudden did not have any apartments available “For people like us”….
    I sure hope Westport has become more tolerant of folks from other countries…

  10. From the comments herein this is a hot topic. Our founding fathers concurred that home rule presides. That said, state and town rules win the day. The Chief is correct to invoke the state regulation but more importantly to make public his documentation of the town’s stance as lead law enforcement officer. I doubt his post was made without prior blessing by the First Selectman and others. Say what you will about border control but common law principles exist
    for a reason.

  11. We have an absolutely outstanding Police force here in Westport. This includes one incredible Chief and Deputy Chief of Police! Thank you Chief Foti, Sam Arciola, and all the amazing women and men on our force! You are all the BEST!!! 👏👏🙏🙏

  12. I’m wishing that Dan Woog would
    use his discretion—since it is his site—
    to round up and remove those who constantly post inane, non-sensical comments that are of no value to anyone……Fogel would be a solid first
    move.

    • Richard Fogel

      We need to get an investigative reporter or serious journalist to examine Westport retail stores like clothing stores, who are there janitorial workers, their repair people,the tailors, the home builders of Westport and who they hire, the Westport car washes and who they hire, plus an understanding of how your food gets to market, who harvests the calms,mussels, and oysters from our local waters? Do you think its documented people? Who gives you a foot massage? Who massages your spine? Who is renovating your home? Who mulches your garden and cuts your lawn? Walk down to the beach area and obsreve the food truck that provides latino specialty food. Listen to the language spoken on construction sites. Enjoy the happy workers singing as they work their ass off. I challenge an investigative reporter or an undercover to seek employment for any of the aforementioned and report. I am proud of the comments by T Mitchell. The observations I make are true. Many republican business hire undocumented labor Donald Trump does and so do many of his friends. They abuse the weak. They scapegoat the weak. I am not weak Mr T Mitchell. The truth is strong. I know you are worried Mr T Mitchell. I will speak up. Your just like Trump who wants to make the press the enemy of the people. I am honored by T Mitchell nasty comment

      • What has Richard taught me:
        1. All hard work and menial work is done by undocumented workers.
        2. All undocumented workers are “Latino”
        3. We should assume all “Latino” workers are undocumented (no citizens, no green cards)
        4. Only Latinos eat from Latino specialty food trucks.
        5. It’s mostly Republican businesses that hire Latinos…and we need to shame them for giving them jobs.
        6. Latino workers are “weak”, therefore, Republican Businesses abuse them.
        7. Latino workers are “weak” and “abused” by Republicans, but they “sing” and are “happy workers”
        8. We should find out which Westport retailers are hiring the undocumented “Latinos”and make sure they fire them.
        9. Businesses never hired the undocumented before Trump was President.
        10. It’s all Trumps fault, he wrote the laws…
        11. These are all “observations”
        12. All these observations are the “truth”
        13.Since we are stereotyping….. my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather drove a wagon in the Revolutionary War….I must be lazy.
        14. TDS is alive and strong.

        • Richard Fogel

          there are undocumemted polish, Russians, Haitians, Croatians. I have not seen any other food trucks by any other culture in westport. Its easy to see that the majority of workers in the massage business and nail business are Asian. I explained how they are transported to Queens and only work for tips. No wage is paid in many instances. You did not include this in your reply. Where did I say that Latinos are the only ethnic group that work hard? By the way, how many of Westport families pick our fruit? If no one employs undocumented workers they will not come here in such numbers. Why not punish the the business owners who hire the undocumented? So if Trump golf courses and hotels have employed undocumented workers what does that say? If republican supporters who vote to lock up children and separate families who have been in the USA for a long time then use undocumented workers to make their business successful what does that say about hypocrisy? If there was a magical button to deport all the undocumented the economy of the USA would collapse. Food would be scarce. If anyone knows of a food truck in Westport that delivers ethnic food other then Latino food, please post it. I never said only Latinos eat from food trucks in the area. But i would bet you a fortune of a charitable donation that latinos in the local Westport area and from the building industry are its strong majority. You could stand in front of construction sites, in front of restaurants, in front of car washes and hold up signs saying we support Trump, No undocumented workers allowed in theUSA. Go and ask the business owners if their workers are legal to be here. Go ask the painting contractors,roofers, landscapers,masons,restaurant staff. Publish their response. Its about making America White Again

          • A lot of “ifs” in your comment Richard….and just for the record, “If’s” aren’t facts.
            As for your “how many of Westport families pick our fruit?” question. I would respond by asking… how many illegals are picking fruit in Westport?
            Oh, and when you find out who all the white Republican massage parlor owners are in Queens, please let us know.
            No doubt they are all connected to Trump…
            Thanks.

  13. I am happy to see that free speech is alive and well on this site. Regardless of in agreement or not of what is said. I am completely against any censorship. We must never give up the right of free speech if we do, we lose our nation.

  14. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Let’s END this:
    1. All employed workers should be given immediate increases to $15/hr. This to include Mr. Fogel’s undocumented foot massage therapist (does Ms. Fogel have a problem with handling Mr. Fogel’s feet herself – are Odor Eaters covered under the ACA? No? Is that fair to the undocumented Latino foot massage technician and his olfactory health?)
    2. Whatever it takes, ICE staffing, money, whatever, all refugees at the border are to be immediately processed, naturalized and given a free foot massage courtesy of Westport.
    3. H.R. Block will provide complimentary comparative tax analysis to determine the true net difference between $9/hr for an undocumented worker and $15 for a documented one – this factoring in the local, state federal income tax/FICA, etc. (I know Westport doesn’t have a local income tax but most other municipalities – including sanctuary cities do) that would now be paid – unless Mr. Fogel wants to let them off the hook for that, too.
    These are modest proposals. If not in Westport – Where? If not by Mr. Fogel – Who? If not now – When?
    No need to issue a position paper Chief Koskinas. Your dogs aren’t in this fight.

    FREE HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYBODY!!!
    FREE DONUTS FOR THE WPD!!!!

  15. There is a lot of energy in this thread, I wish we would direct that energy where it belongs on our elected feckless and lazy politicians for immigration reform. Those in congress need to do there job and stop the political grand standing. They created the mess at the southern border they need to fix it and be held accountable if they don’t.

    • Richard Fogel

      i agree but its the people who vote for the politicans that are at fault. If you vote for a racist, a bigot, a con man, a lewd man, this is what we get. We used to have good republicans. Orange has destroyed the republican party.

      • Regardless of your feelings of Orangeman. This is a 30 year old problem Obama and previous presidents have deported more people then the current administration.

        The bottom line is we need to put the pressure on those in office. It’s congress who writes the bills that means those in the house and senate need to get off there ass and get to work.

        • David Stalling

          You are absolutely correct that past administrations deported immigrants. But there are huge differences: Past presidents — Republicans and Democrats —focused mostly on immigrants found guilty of criminal offenses and on immigrants who were recent arrivals and had not yet settled in and developed strong ties to the U.S. They usually overlooked and made exceptions for immigrants who had been in the U.S. for a long time and had families, jobs and strong ties to the U.S.

          Reagan, for example, granted amnesty to about three million undocumented immigrants. Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There was a bit more flexibility and compassion in their policies.

          The current administration has brought significant changes in attitude and enforcement, with little of any consideration given to children or immigrants with families and strong ties to the U.S. In addition, the current administration has brought about many other changes including: Banning nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States; Cancelling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is currently providing work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children; Ending the designation of Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, and signaled that Hondurans and possibly Salvadorans may also lose their work authorization and protection from removal in 2018 . . . To name a few.

    • Michael Pettee

      Congress did not create the mess at the Southern border.

  16. Adrian Hinojos

    Chief Koskinas, you have my trust!

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