Police chief talks immigration stance after ICE raids
WESTPORT — Last week’s expected raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raised fear across the country. Westport was no exception, with the police department releasing a statement reassuring the public they would not be involved with the federal government’s efforts.
“Even though it doesn’t seem so at times, we have a very diverse community because of the people that come through our town on a daily basis,” said Koskinas, a first-generation immigrant from Greece.
He noted his department has a strict adherence to the Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits law enforcement from honoring certain immigration detainers. Despite being accused in the past by the ACLU of assisting ICE through its license-plate reader system, the department denied they collected data on drivers’ immigration status.
The raids were initially expected to happen three weeks ago, but were delayed until this past weekend.
“What we knew was bigger cities across the area would be targeted, but that’s hard to believe if you’re the person scared to come out,” Koskinas said.
With concern growing from residents, Koskinas said it was important his department issued a message. However, he noted this did not signify a weak stance on crime, and anyone who puts residents at risk will face consequences.
“If someone commits a crime their immigration status does not play a part in it,” he said. “The consequences are all the same.”
According to Koskinas, the police department has undergone a cultural change over the last few decades and this represented a continuation of that shift.
“We’ve been taking more of a caretaker role,” he said. “We treat everyone equally. Not by your racial status, not by your social status, and not by your immigration status.”
For Koskinas, law enforcement’s primary role is to serve the community, and to ensure they can fulfill this role, trust must exist between his department and civilians.
“What we’re creating is an environment where someone who is not documented will not feel scared to reach out to us,” he said.
Koskinas emphasized that being in the country undocumented is a violation of immigration law, not criminal law, which is why local police departments don’t ask about immigration status or arrest undocumented people solely based on their status.
Koskinas, who arrived in Westport at the age of 9, said he met some of the greatest people in his life by coming to America, adding immigrants are part of the fabric of the community.
“For me, packing up all your belongings, whether that is just a backpack and a few dollars or that is your entire household, can be difficult enough,” he said. “I was fortunate to have good people who helped me along the way.”