Police chiefs from across the state said they were focused on Connecticut laws, but would help federal agents crack down on undocumented immigrants.
The news came out of a closed door meeting with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and law enforcement leaders on Friday.
The meeting featured a wide ranging discussion from gun proposals, along with funding and resources for police. On the topic of immigration, the chiefs stressed, they have never been asked to round up people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and they said they're not going to be doing that now.
"We're not turning into a police state. We're not going out there to corral people up,” Waterbury Police Chief Vernon Riddick said. “It’s not what we're going to do. It’s not what we have been doing, not what we're currently doing."
Esty and a number of police chiefs serving the 5th Congressional District said when it comes to immigration, they want immigrants to know their officers won't be changing how they police.
"The thought that local enforcement is going to be deputized into this state of enforcement roll is not factually correct for the way we do local policing in Connecticut,” Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe said.
It’s a hot button issue across the county with President Donald Trump vowing to increase deportations and bolster the number of federal immigration agents.
In Connecticut, there was a recent high profile case involving an undocumented immigrant. Last Friday, Oscar Hernandez, who had already been deported once, set off an Amber Alert after police said stabbed Nidia Gonzalez, who as the mother of his six-year-old daughter, to death. Then, Hernandez took off with the little girl. Police eventual caught up to the pair in western Pennsylvania. Hernandez was waiting to be brought back to Bridgeport where he'll be charged with murder.
"Anyone who is a violent criminal, out to be apprehended, it doesn't matter what their immigration status is, and that's what all the chiefs are committed to doing,” Esty said. “And we want to know ow this guy in Bridgeport got back into the country."
But, when it comes to serious and violent crimes, police said they will focus on Connecticut laws
"We concentrate in the state of Connecticut on state laws, not federal laws, however, we do assist any agency, if somebody comes FBI, DHS, state police, other agencies, we will go and assist,” Wolcott Police Chief Ed Stevens said. “If they're looking for a violent fugitive, that’s an illegal alien, we will go there, by all means, to prevent harm happening to somebody like in Bridgeport."
The chiefs also stressed communication especially when it comes to victims of crimes, who might be worried about coming forward if they are undocumented. They said you don't lose the right to be a victim of a crime, simply because of your status.
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