Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Marching for Laura Winterbottom and Against Sexual Violence | Main | MyWebGrocer Hosts Vermont's First Hackathon (Updated With Winners) »

September 16, 2011

Shumlin Says VT Should "Look the Other Way" on Illegal Immigration, Republicans Pounce

Shumlin Gov. Peter Shumlin has added fuel to the fire over this week's bust of undocumented migrant farm workers by the Vermont State Police.

In an interview with WPTZ-TV's Stewart Ledbetter yesterday, Shumlin said Vermont should "look the other way" when it comes to dealing with immigrants working illegally on Vermont farms. "We have always had a policy in Vermont where we kind of look the other way as much as we can," Shumlin told WPTZ. "I just want to make sure that's what's we're doing. [Vermont farms] can't survive without workers from outside America. It's just the way it is. "

On Tuesday, two farm workers from Mexico — one of them an outspoken activist — were turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol after state police stopped a car in which they were passengers for speeding. Members of the Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project branded the incident "racial profiling" and formed a human chain to block the border patrol SUVs from driving off with the farm workers — leading to the arrest of three protesters. (Clip below, full video here).

Shumlin ordered an investigation of the incident on Tuesday to determine whether the traffic stop violated with the state police's "bias-free policing policy."

Not surprisingly, the Vermont Republican Party pounced on the gov's "look the other way" comment — after first explaining why Shumlin was partially correct.

"The governor may be correct that there is a need for foreign workers on many Vermont farms, just as there is a need for foreign workers in many of our resort towns," GOP chairwoman Pat McDonald said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. "But Gov. Shumlin's comments that the policy of the State Police should be to 'look the other way' in some cases is completely irresponsible of any elected leader. "

What do McDonald and the Vermont GOP think Shumlin should be doing about the problem?

"Rather than turning a blind eye to laws he doesn't like, Gov. Shumlin should be working with our congressional delegation, as former Gov. Douglas and Sen. Leahy did, towards finding legal solutions that would make every foreign worker in Vermont compliant with federal law, and that wouldn't result in a depression of wages for those foreign workers that are in Vermont legally," McDonald's statement read.

"The hardworking officers of the Vermont State Police took an oath to uphold the law," the GOP statement went on. "The governor's new policy of 'look the other way' may sound good to those that support illegal immigration, but it is not the appropriate guidance a sitting governor should be giving to Vermont's law enforcement community."


(Video: Protesters from the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project being arrested for impeding the Border Patrol vehicles).

The WPTZ interview with Shumlin ends with the governor asking: "My question is this: Do we have a clear policy that we give our law enforcement folks?"

The answer depends on which police agency you're talking about.

Police departments in several Vermont towns with immigrant populations have adopted policies that amount to "look the other way" when it comes to enforcing immigration law — notably Burlington, Winooski and Middlebury. Last fall, Vermont's top law enforcer, Attorney General Bill Sorrell, proposed a policy that urges every police agency in the state to adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to the issue. Other police departments have no bias-free policies on the books.

Vermont State Police's bias-free policing policy, obtained Friday by Seven Days, is four pages long — and offers general guidelines but few specific instructions. The first two pages explain what a trooper is supposed to do if someone calls with a complaint that is solely based on someone's race, gender, immigration status or other "personal criteria." According to the policy, state police should first explore whether there are any "behaviors" that call for police response. The trooper should then contact a shift supervisor, who will call the complainant and explain that, barring evidence of criminal conduct, state police do not investigate individuals solely based on these personal criteria.

The policy spells out that, pursuant to the Constitution, detentions, traffic stops, arrests, searches and seizures must be based on "reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or other required standards." What does that mean? It means that troopers "will not consider race, ethnicity, or other personal criteria in establishing either reasonable suspicion or probable cause." However, there's a caveat: State police may take into account race, immigration status and other personal criteria of suspects if "credible" and "reliable" information "links persons of specific description criteria to particular criminal incidents."

The police was first adopted in 2003 and revised most recently on July 15, 2011.

State police did have a legitimate reason for making the traffic stop on Tuesday. The driver, Bill Hoag, a U.S. citizen from North Randolph, was traveling 88 mph on Interstate 89 in Middlesex when police stopped him. The question may be whether police had legitimate reasons to suspect farm workers Danilo Lopez and Antonio Mesa of being here illegally and to ask about their identification.

The Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project has questioned why the men were asked for ID, since they were passengers and were not driving the car; the group claims that racial profiling was at work. State police have not said how they became aware that the workers were undocumented; the state police press release only states, "Through the course of the traffic stop it was learned that the passengers were allegedly residing illegally in the United States."

Vermont State Police spokeswoman Stephani Dasaro did not immediately respond on Friday to questions about the traffic stop, including whether state police routinely ask passengers for identification.

Nullification FTW! We did in the 1850s to defang the Fugitive Slave Acts, and we're doing it again to neutralize the worst excesses of retarded Federal immigration policies. If Arizona can use its sovereignty to create a racist police state, Vermont should absolutely be able to use its rights as a state to protect the liberties of the people within its borders...

Could not agree more with you Matt.

My favorite quote from this article is the GOP guy saying "The governor's new policy of 'look the other way' may sound good to those that support illegal immigration..." This is perfectly and exactly wrong. People support LEGAL immigration and civil liberties for LEGAL workers. The fact that "the system" has yet to design a system to provide Vermont with the labor it so desperately needs NOW is not a reason to continue to criminalize that labor and endanger the endeavors that require it. I think it is really admirable that Shumlin is willing to take this stance. Labor is a near term problem that won't (and shouldn't) wait for a dysfunctional duopoly to solve. Free Vermont!

HOLY Christ !!. Amazing, simply amazing.

Scomber the Arizona policy is almost exactly the USA policy. All they did was say they were going to enforce it basically.

Juliet, Perfectly and Exactly wrong describes your post to a Tee. You want a legal way? FILL OUT THE FREAKING PAPERS. It's not difficult. Millions and millions of people for centuries have been able to figure out how to do it.

Admirable of Scumlin to advocate ignoring the law? Yup, that's wicked admirable. I guess its fine to ignore the one that says molesting children is illegal. Or fine to ignore the one the states we have to pay taxes.


If you want to change why not talk to the Chairmen of the Senate committee in charge... you know that bald guy that is more concerned with bringing home the pork then doing his job. Until the feds change the law it is the law and we do not pick and choose which to follow in this country.

JCARTER - By your logic, Vermont should have only resisted federally sanctioned slave-catchers in the 1850s by petitioning our congressional delegation for redress. I'm sure at the time you would have been whining that the juries that refused to cooperate with them and the Judge who demanded that a slave-catcher produce "a bill of sale from the Almighty" needed to recognize that "Until the feds change the law it is the law and we do not pick and choose which to follow in this country." The molesting children piece is a straw man; that is clearly MORALLY WRONG, and violating that law has no justice. On the contrary, criminalizing and denying the (the quote Jefferson) "inalienable rights" of hardworking immigrants is itself unjust and, like slavery, deserve to be challenged.

Also, your response to Juliet is a straw-man, since immigration levels are artificially capped at 700,000, so it's not just a question of filling out some papers. If we reform things to the point where a form and criminal background check are all that's required to enter the country, that's one thing; however, as long as we have a protectionist quota system, many people will be forced by circumstance to become illegal immigrants...

Of course, Gov. Douglas "looked the other way," too.

The Vermont GOP wants us to forget this news story:

"Sunday’s Burlington Free Press reported an eyebrow-raiser about a Middlebury farm owned by Gov. Douglas’ inlaws that has employed illegal immigrant farm workers from Mexico for the last four years!

"Veteran investigative reporter Sam Hemingway also added the rather juicy tidbit that our governor [DOUGLAS] was well aware of it, fully cognizant the law was being broken ... "


Your example of slaves isn't right either. You obviously realize there is a difference between Slaves and their "human rights" as opposed to a mexican breaking the law.

And, yes Douglas looked the other way too. No one is perfect and Jimmy D wasn't either.

That doesn't change the fact they were here ILLEGALLY

JCARTER, In case you haven't noticed, the federal government can't find its own ass with both hands right now. I can't think of a more nihilistic approach to local decision making than "wait for the Feds to figure it out and until they do, shut up and stay in line". Vermont needs to assess what is in Vermont's interests and leave the bloated centralized federal bureaucracy to its pork fed dysfunctional poop throwing histrionics.

So.... we should just ignore all that the feds do because they are dumb, stupid and ineffective?

While from an Idealistic standpoint I agree with you. From a realistic standpoint it's just naive.

I think social security is a scam, and illegal. So I shouldn't pay any FICA any more? Can I tell Uncle Sam you said it was ok if I didn't

I love how people automatically point to farms and say "Americans won't do this, so we need these type of workers". Talk to someone in the construction business who has lost out on a bid to an out of state contractor, who then uses undocumented workers to perform the work. Happens in VT all the time. Yes a lot of people these days are too lazy to work in the fields but there are a lot of people in Vermont that work in construction and are competing against contractors that knowingly employ illegals. We shouldn't be looking the other way on that.

"Of course, Gov. Douglas "looked the other way," too."

Interesting title on that 7D article, "Douglas Stumbles." Funny how Shumlin isn't characterized as "stumbling" when he takes a far clumsier stab at saying the same thing. He's just being picked on by those mean Republicans.

Scomber's analogy of not enforcing slavery laws to not enforcing immigration laws is simply farcical.

Enforce the damn immigration laws. Bob The Builder is exactly right.

Has anybody ever asked how these undocumented immigrants feel about their situation? Useless rhetoric stating that they "get their papers" has no place when confronted with a byzantine immigration system where it's not even decently possible to get a temporary work program to bring them up here in the first place to work in many jobs that American-born people won't even bother to take. Many of the dairy farms in this state would flounder if it weren't for their labor. Plus, the noose is tightening around many of these people because it is getting harder and harder with the increased enforcement of immigration laws by the Obama administration. The states don't have much, if any authority to enforce immigration laws and that responsibility lies with Congress, which in the face of several decent proposals to solve the situation, has just sat on its ass these past several years. So they're here illegally and there is not much we can do it. Papers! Get your immigration status in order! Pointless if the system doesn't work, and it doesn't, as it's broken. Plus, two undocumented workers detained as passengers in a car pulled over for speeding isn't an avalanche of humanity in Vermont. We're not confronting a massive immigration wave here folks. Please get a grip on reality and keep a better perspective on things. We don't have much of an immigration problem, the country at large does.

Dan, you would be surprised at the wave of immigration here. I can find you over a 100 in less then a day in BTV. Don't sit there and say there isn't an immigration problem, perhaps a more correct way would be to say you are not AWARE of an immigration problem.

JCarter, I work for one of the immigration agencies and I AM AWARE of the immigration problem, so don't lecture me on that subject thank you very much. Think and speak carefully on a subject where somebody else probably knows much more than you do.

Ah, yes. The final authority has spoken.

"We don't have much of an immigration problem, the country at large does."

Therefore, we should "look the other way" when we encounter an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT in Vermont?

Jeez, some of you guys really have a problem with the concept of relativity. I'm saying we don't have much of a problem when compared and contrasted with the country at large, but there is still a problem. But you could always look back at our ancestors here who were the original "illegal immigrants". Native Americans who inhabited this country first surely didn't have much of a say as to who was going to inhabit this land that is now the United States. Read a bit about our history and try to pry open that narrowmindedness of yours before you make ignorant comments.

Ah. So now the man who "probably knows much more than we do" suggests that those of us who are concerned about illegal immigration are narrowminded and ignorant.

Way to go.

Unfortunately, I stand by my comment. Talk is cheap and opinions that aren’t constructive or conducive to dialogue in anyway aren’t worth anyone’s time. My job is in immigration matters, so I have a good general knowledge about how the immigration process works in this country. If instead of giving a knee-jerk reaction to comments which try to be constructive and informative, you would indicate that you don’t necessarily agree but are willing to hear out other opinions to be inform your own, then you would be on a much better standing. However, when after giving my opinion, I’m informed that I’m not aware of the immigration situation or how to handle UNDOCUMENTED immigrants without any basis as to why, I feel compelled to respond and point out the ignorance in those statements. Also, the language one uses to describe the people coming to this country must be thoughtful as well. Just throwing out the term “illegal immigrant” at every turn indicates a distaste at their very presence when they should be viewed as HUMAN BEINGS, not vermin. You can still disagree with their presence, but you could actively work towards a solution, perhaps advocating for a temporary worker program that would legalize their stay in this country (which we don’t have for these people) and make filing paperwork easier for their potential employers. The system is byzantine and Gov. Shumlin has suggested looking the other way. The way he said it makes a lot of people shake their heads, but he’s trying to deal with the situation in a thoughtful manner. Telling undocumented immigrants to get out because they’re not legal won’t make the Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement come pick them up. It’s also not a catch-all solution. In fact, often times it creates more problems and conundrums that have to be dealt with. Read up on the subject and then a thoughtful dialogue can come up. Until then, your comments are a waste of space.

"Jeez, some of you guys really have a problem with the concept of relativity. I'm saying we don't have much of a problem when compared and contrasted with the country at large"

ALOL....LOL. Nice one Dan, Of course it us, the ignorant masses, that have a problem with relativity. Nah, couldn't be the guy trying to compare the number of illegal immigrants in VT to AZ?


Please do not feed the trolls... Oops.

"If instead of giving a knee-jerk reaction to comments which try to be constructive and informative, you would indicate that you don’t necessarily agree but are willing to hear out other opinions to be inform your own, then you would be on a much better standing . . ."

I don't remember YOU doing this.

And calling people narrowminded and ignorant isn't a knee-jerk reaction?

Get a grip.

Guys, keep it civil, please. Debate all you want but there's no need for all the sniping and name-calling. Thanks.

To Mr. Sanchez,
What agency do you work for? The enforcement side? or are you an adjudicator?

Vermont should "look the other way" on speeding incidents involving then-gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin. We should "look the other way" when said candidate "accidentally" flashes his Senate ID card to the officer instead of his driver's license, as requested. We should look the other way" when said candidate tries to bribe the officer with an offer of a job in the future gubernatorial administration. We should "look the other way" when said gubernatorial candidate crashes a military funeral in St. Albans to campaign and upsets the soldier's family. We should "look the other way" when the gubernatorial candidate manufactures a state senate vote against Vermont Yankee and pretends that the vote was about anything and everything other than "radiological safety," when that is exactly and only what it was about. We should "look the other way" when the governor takes secret vacations, etc.

Wake up, Vermont! We are inundated with ILLEGAL folks everyday in this country, who, by all means, legally and ethically, challenge the sovereignty of our COUNTRY!

In most of the southern border U.S. states, illegal immigration creates huge problems in social programs, penal systems and deteriorates the standard of living of all folks both illegal and legal residents! We have immigration laws on our books for a PROTECT the law-abiding citizens, legal residents and LEGAL guests of the USA!

To impede the work of the US Border Patrol, who (by the way!) are paid by the tax payers of the USA to PROTECT our borders and way of life, is (in my humble opinion) a DISGRACE as an American Jus Soli!

Gov. Shumlin, you were elected by the LEGAL AMERICAN CITIZENS in the great state of VT! You are expected to hold OUR interests above all others...including illegal folks!

@Juliette Buck, Wrong! From 1942 through 1964, the Bracero Program was a federal program that admitted foreign farm workers, they were paid fair wages with tax deductions, just as for citizens, and they returned to their native nation after the agricultural necessities were fulfilled. There was no Amnesty, they did not become citizens, and they went home. Pres Johnson dismantled the Bracero Program and the last shred of national immigration policy in 1964, and it has been down hill since.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684