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September 13, 2011

VIDEO: Migrant Farmworker Leader Detained; 3 Protesters Arrested; Gov. Shumlin Orders Investigation (Updated)


*Update and Clarification Below*

An immigration bust by Vermont State Police on Tuesday, and the subsequent arrest of protesters, is sending shock waves around the state.

Earlier today, two undocumented migrant farm workers — one of them an outspoken critic of a controversial immigration enforcement program — were detained by state police following a routine traffic stop on I-89 in Middlesex and handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol. Brendan O'Neill, an organizer with the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project, said farm workers Danilo Lopez and Antonio Mesa (whose last name is unknown) were racially profiled by state police after a car they were passengers in was pulled over for speeding — a violation of the Vermont State Police's bias-free policing policy, O'Neill claims.

The situation escalated this afternoon, when activists from the Solidarity Project showed up at the Middlesex state police barracks to protest the farm workers' expected deportation. When the Border Patrol tried to leave with the handcuffed immigrants in SUVs, five of the protesters locked arms and blocked the government vehicle — provoking a standoff that ended with three of them being carted off and arrested. (See video above).

Later Tuesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin ordered an investigation into the traffic stop.

"The Governor is concerned by accounts of the incident and ordered an immediate internal investigation to determine the facts of what happened and if Vermont State Police bias-free policies were followed," a statement from the governor's office read. "In addition, he has instructed his legal counsel to lead a review of State Police policies relating to undocumented workers in the state with an eye toward ensuring bias-free policing conduct is observed in all settings."

The immigrants were passengers in a vehicle driven by a friend, Bill Hoag of North Randolph. According to Vermont State Police, Hoag was pulled over for driving 88 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-89 in Middlesex. Hoag produced valid identification, the state police said, and was "released with the possibility of a future civil citation."

DSC00545 "Through the course of the traffic stop it was learned that the passengers were allegedly residing illegally in the United States," a state police press release said. "Troopers contacted U.S. Border Patrol, and Border Patrol agents issued an Immigration Detainer requesting that the Vermont State Police detain the individuals until their arrival at the Middlesex Barracks. At the time of this press release, both subjects were released by the U.S. Border Patrol with a Notice to Appear at a future date."

The director of the state police, Col. Tom L'Esperance, issued a written statement about the incident, stating, "An internal investigation has been order[sic], as well as a review of policies relating to incidents involving undocumented workers in the state to ensure bias-free policing conduct in all settings. The Vermont State Police take seriously the necessity of ensuring fair and humane treatment of all people living and working in Vermont, regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, or other personal criteria."

Three protesters were cited and released for disorderly conduct: John J. MacLean, 51, of Burlington; Brendan O’Neill, 38, of Underhill; and Avery Brook, 29, of Burlington.

Last fall, Attorney General Bill Sorrell unveiled a bias-free policing policy that takes a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to immigration status — and urged all local police agencies to adopt it. At the time, he declared that Vermont was no Arizona. In July, L'Esperance told Seven Days that state troopers follow a bias-free policy that is "consistent" with Sorrell's. But this incident — and others like it — raise questions about that.

Mandy Park is an immigration activist who co-authored a set of bias-free policing recommendations that informed Sorrell's recommended policy. On Tuesday afternoon, she was outside Middlesex barracks working for the farm workers' release and noted those recommendations list the state police among the Vermont agencies that adhere to bias-free policing.

"We should remove them from the list," said Park, who works with the Central Vermont Farmworker Coalition. "As far as we're concerned, they are not practicing bias-free policing at all."

Outside the Middlesex barracks, the driver of the car, Bill Hoag, was remorseful about the situation.

DSC00531 "It's my fault," Hoag said. "I got pulled over for speeding and [the trooper] started to question them. We were headed back to their place. They're just friends. My wife and I had them over for dinner because they fixed up a little lawn tractor."

(Pictured: Natalia Farjardo of the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project embraces Lopez as he's led to the Border Patrol SUV.)

According to Hoag, during the stop State Trooper Jared Hatch radioed back to a supervisor to check whether he could ask the passengers about their immigration status. As Hoag recalls, the trooper then told him that he could, as long as the farm workers were not victims of or witnesses to a crime. When Lopez and Antonio couldn't produce documentation, police took them into custody and called the Border Patrol.

"I was never even given a traffic ticket," Hoag said later.

Brendan O'Neill acknowledges the farm workers weren't able to produce valid visas, but maintains that under the Vermont State Police bias-free policing policy, the trooper had no right to ask for papers unless the farm workers were suspected of crimes.

Danilo Lopez Lopez is a 22-year-old Mexican employed at a horse farm in Charlotte. Recently he has become the public face of an organizing campaign by Vermont migrant farm workers — many of them employed illegally on dairy farms — against a controversial federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities. (This file photo was taken three weeks ago in Montpelier when Lopez and a fellow farm worker hand-delivered a petition signed by 70 migrant laborers asking Shumlin to reject Secure Communities. Later that morning, they held a press conference on the statehouse steps.)

Less is known about Antonio Mesa — including his last name. Activists with the VT Migrant Farm Workers Solidarity Project weren't familiar with him and Hoag didn't know much about him.

Under Secure Communities, local police agencies share fingerprints with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The program's goal is to catch and deport criminal aliens, but it has come under fire for sweeping up large numbers of undocumented immigrants with no criminal records. Vermont has not enacted the program but the Obama administration has pledged to expand it nationwide by 2013.

Despite his outspokenness, Lopez's arrest appears to be pure coincidence.

From inside the state police holding cell, Lopez texted a message to O'Neill of the Solidarity Project at 12:44 p.m. Tuesday, who relayed it to the world. As translated by O'Neill, the message read:

"My name is Danilo. Today the police stopped us. Though there was no reason to ask for my documented status they did and only for being a different color from our friend who was driving. We chose to remain silent to not have more problems. He called the Border Patrol quickly. If this message reaches the governor it is so he can see our cruel reality. We spoke with him not too long ago about this 'Polimigra' and we have another meeting that now I will not be able to attend."

Here's all the video, start to finish. It begins with Border Patrol agents leading a handcuffed Lopez out of the state police barracks and into their vehicle.


Five protesters from the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project locked arms in front of the Border Patrol vehicle, attempting to stop it from leaving.


When they refused to move out of the way, state police moved in to arrest the group. Three of the five were handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct for impeding traffic.


The Farmworker Solidarity Project had scheduled a vigil for Tuesday evening outside the Border Patrol station in Richford.

*Update and Clarification*

Update: Danilo Lopez and Antonio Mesa were released by the U.S. Border Patrol late on Tuesday evening with citations to appear in court at a future, unspecified date.

Clarification: This post stated that Mandy Park of the Central Vermont Migrant Farmworkers Coalition "co-authored a set of bias-free policing recommendations that informed [Attorney General Bill] Sorrell's recommended policy." Park co-authored a document entitled "Action Pack: Bias Free Policing Across Vermont. An End to Police Profiling for Communities of Color and Immigrants."  Download the Action Pack here. That document was released after Sorrell announced his recommended bias-free policy for Vermont police agencies in October 2010. However, Park was involved in discussions in June 2010 with Sorrell to gather feedback and suggestions on an early draft of the bias-free policy. In the end, Sorrell did adopt some of the recommendations suggested at that June meeting.

Thanks for this coverage - I'm really glad someone was there to video.

"...sending shock waves around the state". What are you, the NY Post of VT? Give me a break.

It takes guts to stand up for justice like that; heroic!

Cannot believe that they let someone video that scene without stopping it.

THAT is what Solidarity looks like. I'm proud of the folks who stood up to police and refused to be moved, and I'm glad VTers are getting angry about the obvious profiling that sparked all of this. Vermont is NOT Arizona!

Way to go guys!
What will happen to the workers?

What business do the state police have calling the Border Control?

Vermont can't have it both ways: Exploit hard physical labor of immigrants for its own benefit, while persecuting them for the color of their skin. Like the Jamaican apple pickers, Asian & Latino ski resort housekeepers, and array of former refugee factory workers and custodial workers at FAHC & large chain hotels, these dairy workers are sustaining one of VT's most symbolic industries. How many white people have been asked for their ID as a passenger during a routine police stop? Unfortunately, if you are brown, accent or not, this is daily practice across the state. It's called racial profiling. Shall we add that as a characteristic of VT? It's time for change.

Looks like the Police handled a difficult situation well. While I am sypathetic to the plightof many migrant workers we have a system of laws that we must work within, forming that wall accomplished nothing, shouting out "don't hurt me" when you refuse to cooperate with police shows your motive. Job well down by our Police.

If folks from other countries want to work here, let's just make it easier for them to do so. In the meantime, if they are here illegally, then they don't belong here.
How come with a high unemployment rate, we can't get regular Americans to work?
I'm also thinking, how can so many "protesters" come out of the woodwork so fast and just make things difficult while not accomplishing anything. Don't they have anything better to do, like work?
Wanna do something productive, help get those folks that are here illegally, registered so that we don't have these problems...

Did that State Police Officer say "I'm going to pepper spray you if you don't stand up?" Was he threatening to use pepper spray in response to non-violent, civil disobedience?

Wait a second, aren't these people here illegally? Does that mean we can never send them back if caught? That would make a mockery of the law.

It's the threat of arrest for the woman who is not participating in the blocking of traffic that makes me really nervous. She gets threatened with arrest for speaking. That officer is the epitome of what is wrong with law enforcement. In this country we have a right to freedom of speech. Unless she is inciting violence or panic she can say whatever she wants to that officer without fear of punishment.

"Despite his outspokenness, Lopez's arrest appears to be pure coincidence."

How does it "appear" that way? Because they didn't specifically say that they recognized him? Come on.

What other laws should not be enforced? The guy is HERE ILLEGALLY!!! Are there any other laws that you think are unfair that shouldn't be enforced?

And to the lady who on the video asked the Board Patrol Agent what would he do if it was his wife getting deported, I'm sure he doesn't associate with CRIMINALS. When you are Undocumented, that means you are here through means that aren't legal. In other words, ILLEGALLY!

Ok Jim, then the laws that establish bias-free policing must be enforced too.

That means that police can't just interrogate someone because they "look" like they are here illegally.

The Governor is simply ensuring that the officers involved followed the legal procedures. Since you’re such a stickler for law and order, you shouldn’t have any problem with that at all!

If it were so simple for people who wish to work in the United States to "register" and come here "legally" many people would do it. Instead, our laws and bureaucracies prevent people who support industries that we need and do the jobs no one else wants to do from immigrating or even simply migrating from coming here through legal means.

Once you start to understand the laws and processes behind immigration, the issue is not simple "legal" or "illegal" as many people like to see it. This is why is it important and awesome that the Vermont State Police have this non-biased policing policy.

It's despicable that the trooper who made the traffic stop decided to take the law into his own hands. He should go work in Arizona if those are the kinds of policies / politics he wants to enforce.

"Later Tuesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin ordered an investigation into the traffic stop."

You mean, Gov. "Peter the Speeder" Shumlin? The guy who was stopped for speeding during his gubernatorial campaign last year and who tried to avoid getting a ticket by showing not his driver's license but instead his senate ID card? The guy who commented to the officer, "Hey, maybe you'll be working for me someday."?

How ironic that this guy orders an "investigation" into a legitimate raffic stop. The driver admitted it was his fault because he was speeding.

ONE Vermonter,

You crack me up.

I'm not a stickler for the law, but its kind of like being pregnant. You can't be a little. It's an off or on condition. You either are, or aren't.

The law says don't do this. I've lived out west, I have a very good friend whose family brought him here, "undocumented". He's deported, and never allowed back here, because he didn't follow through the process. Through my friend, I know the garbage this system has. I've lived in areas of the country where this is actually a large problem, including Arizona.

The thing I go back to everytime I enter this argument is this: What other laws shouldn't be enforced because of the "back story".

Let's say that this guy got laid off from his job. He's collecting unemployment, but because the economy is so bad, he can't get a job, despite trying. Setting aside the fact that the person whom is in this country illegally has the job (and is not paying income taxes in most cases, although some do, with their fake SSN and never claim the refunds), this guy can't get a job.

He needs to feed his family, so he breaks into a store, and steals some bread and peanut butter. He needs to feed his family, so does that make it right? Getting help through the system is so traumatic and filled with red tape, he can't possibly get through it before they all starve. Is it OK to not arrest him in this case?

Can't enforce only the laws we like, I guess is my point.

"That means that police can't just interrogate someone because they 'look' like they are here illegally."

That doesn't apply in this case.

"Recently he has become the public face of an organizing campaign by Vermont migrant farm workers — many of them employed illegally on dairy farms"

Holding a press conference on the statehouse steps isn't exactly flying under the radar (pun intended).

The migrant workers were not driving so they were not required to have or show ID. It is a difficult situation, but they should not have spoken with the officer about anything personal, they were not crossing a boarder so the officer had no right for interrogation or search. Unfortunately people don't know their rights. Here are a few pointers from Just Cause Law Collective -

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, any discussion at all with a government official can have a profound effect on your immigration status. So it’s critical that you review your rights and responsibilities before talking to anyone from a government agency.

U.S. citizens do not have to carry identification with them. Occasionally, cities or counties try to pass “anti-vagrancy” laws requiring everyone to carry identification, but such provisions have always been held unconstitutional when appealed to higher courts.

If you’re not in custody, then you never have to give your name. This applies in every state. However, sometimes it’s a little hard to tell whether or not you’re in custody (which is defined as “not free to go”).

The important thing to remember, whether or not you give your name and address, is that you should not answer any other questions at all.

Jim Justice:

"Can't enforce only the laws we like, I guess is my

Ok. And what the Governor did is to check to see if the laws regarding "bias-free policing" were broken and if they need to be enforced in this case.

Since he's simply enforcing the bias-free policing LAW, you must support what the Governor did here.

One-Vermonter, your argument fails. The state can not create a bias free policing law if it contradicts federal law.

Federal law says if you are here illegally then you get arrested. Federal law says when asked for documentation you must supply it. That's basic immigration. Of course I suppose if you never went through the immigration process as these boys did then you wouldn't know that. But still ignorance is no excuse.

VT's unbiased "policy" is not a valid law or policy. Just like Kiss' sanctuary city crackpot idea. Just because some yahoo says that's what we are going to do doesn't make it valid.

The sad part is these guys are now in the system. Once they go before the judge they can get a work card, public assistance, etc until there case is heard which is well over a year at this point. Then they can appeal that and appeal again, and actually appeal again. All told buying themselves another decade at least in this country.


Bias-free policing is not the law, One_Vermonter. It is a practice or directive. It does not have the force of law.

"Federal law says when asked for documentation you must supply it."

If that's true then I hope that YOU have your documentation on you at all times!

But of course it isn't true. And of course, you don't carry your 'documentation' with you at all times.

These workers are here illegally despite the fact that the migrant worker program provides a simple process for them to obtain LEGAL employment.

They pay no payroll or income taxes, yet they enjoy all of the benefits of free eduction for their family, food stamp eligibility, VT State sponsored health care for their children and free health care for the rest of the family administered through inappropriate ER visits.

They are also "off the radar" of all occupational health and safety laws and other worker protection programs, which not only jeopardizes their own safety but again shifts the costs to others when they do get hurt.

Again, there is a simple process for them to obtain legal employment as farm workers. They actively choose to accept the risks of breaking the law and therefore they must accept the consequences.

Nazis were elected to power in Germany because business interests and powerful special interests thought they would benefit them. People allowed laws to be put in because they thought it had nothing to do with them. Most looked the other way when things started happening to their Polish, Romany, Jewish neighbors who were decreed to be undesirable. Others did not. They disobeyed the law.

If a law is wrong, it is ethical (and legal) to protest it. Morally, it is mandatory. Some states have provisions that allow juries to find Not Guilty on grounds the broken law is wrong in itself.

John Adams, Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, Paul Revere, the list goes on. All broke the law as it applied at that time, in order to change what they saw as an injustice.

Ironically, the first illegal immigrants were white Europeans who refused to leave when asked after overstaying their welcome-- and they WERE freeloaders. They took the Natives' hospitality, then stole their winter reserves, then their land, and either killed them or moved them away by force-- all out of a sense of entitlement that many still have.

The people arrested work long hours for low pay, thousands of miles away fro their families, at jobs that few (if any) of their critics would deign to apply for, and fewer still would stick at for more than a few days. They are helping to keep Vermont afloat. The immigration systen is wrong, and it is only by publicly protesting its excesses and misdirection that it will change. "Homeland Security" is not about people holding jobs, but about keeping terrorists out. So why did this happen? Old fashioned racism, Vermont style.

SUre I do. I always have a drivers license in my wallet. But I also am not an immigrant, who is directed to carry documentation.

The immigration systen is wrong, and it is only by publicly protesting its excesses and misdirection that it will change. "Homeland Security" is not about people holding jobs, but about keeping terrorists out. So why did this happen?

Ummm, because we don't know who those people are holding jobs... they might be terrorist, they might be carrying diseases, they might be criminals...scratch that. They are by definition criminals.

See if you just want to come for a job you can do so legally. Unless you can't for some reason, like being a rapist or a murder. Who knows? Not the US, because you came illegally. See the point, and why the immigration system IS RIGHT.

I'm sorry, JCarter but I don't think you could find one politician or legal expert that says our immigration system is "RIGHT. It's flawed no matter what perspective you come from. Educate yourself!

Illegal immigrant says it all. Sorrell and a dont ask dont tell policy is history. It did not work on the first subject it was applied to.
Deport these folks as their are many legal immigrants that could use the jobs, as well as United States citizens.

History question here. Can anyone name the lawyers that represented Adams, Adams, Franklin, Allen, and Revere?
Hint. It was not Joe McNeil.


too funny. You use the fact that, let me get this straight.... politicians don't think it's right so ergo I need to educate myself...


Vermont dairy farmers can not find anyone other than immigrants to do hard labor, up to twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week. If it weren't for the migrant workers, the Vermont dairy industry would not survive. No one else wants this job. They are not stealing our jobs. They are just trying to eak out a living like everyone else, regardless of the color of their skin.

@ Michele:

Even if what you say is true (and I do not necessarily buy it), that's still not an excuse for anyone being in this country ILLEGALLY.

What's so difficult to understand about ILLEGAL!

It seems clear that the car occupants were questioned and asked to produce identification because of their appearance. I think you all know that if the passengers had been blond with blue eyes that would never happen. That's what's wrong here. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of legal people of color in the state. They should not be subjected to this type of treatment simply because of how they look. They should not be expected to carry their papers with them at all times to prove their legal status or risk wasting a whole day with police and border patrol, just because of how they look and sound. This is Vermont, not Arizona. We are better than that. We can't stand for this here.

Really people? There are people here giving legal advice that is not right, people running down the police to support their own agneda. These people are here illegally. You people won't be happy until the police run around in white gloves and whistles. The nwhat will the police do when your home is being broken into, your family memeber being raped or a drunk driver killing a loved one. By the way any of these could be by an illegal immegrant. Wake up people and worry about your own problems.

Angry Mexican,

You can't possibly know that. I have been in plenty of cars that were pulled over in this state and asked for ID even though I was a passenger.

That is just despicable, trying to make this into a race issue. You know, racism dies the day that people like you stop using it as an excuse for everything.

They were here illegally, came illegally, failed to fill out that appropriate papers, failed to abide the laws of this country. They got a fine and let go. Poor Poor guys ? (snifle)

Michele your argument doesn't hold water. If they didn't have those jobs farmers would have to pay more to attract workers. People would then work there. It's a simple case of supply and demand. Sure we may pay an extra buck a gallon of milk, but we would save 10 from welfare and unemployment.

Carter, how many of those times were you asked to prove you were a citizen or legal resident? How many times did they ask you to show a passport, green card or certificate of naturalization? How many times did they call the border patrol to fully check you out?
My guess: None. I have friends (legal Mexican ones) who have been subjected to this treatment when they were in a store or on the street. But you don't think it's because of the way they look. But nobody else around them got questioned. It's profiling, and it's wrong. If illegal residents should not be here, fine. Use established investigative tools, find them and ship them out, all 20 million. But leave the rest of us alone.

I am so proud of everyone who stood up and took action on this. You make me proud to be an activist and to be a Vermonter. This is what real solidarity looks like and speaking truth to power. You have my full support. The people united will never be defeated! Thank you for interrupting the status quo and showing what standing together as humans and fellow workers is about.

The corporate elite in this country set up the immigration system to produce a class of second-class-non-citizens who don't have effective rights here and can be paid less and pushed around, always in fear of deportation and separation from their families. The corporate class doesn't want to end illegal immigration--they want to scapegoat and oppress immigrants, and keep them illegal and working. What we need to do is get full legal status for everyone, full rights, and good wages and working conditions for everyone. We need to stop this divide-and-conquer effort that pits US workers/workers internationally against eachother while the top 1% gets richer and richer and pushes policies and practices that ruin the planet and make us all less safe.

I applaud the State Police and the State of Vermont for having and using a bias-free policing policy. This is the right direction to be going in. However, you need to be consistent and true to your word and never ask for someone's documentation in these situations. Period.

Mr. Machado, I thought you had a rule on this blog (I can't remember the name of the so-called "principle") about references to Hitler and/or Nazis. You deleted one of my comments once because you felt that it violated the principle (I disagreed, but of course you win).

I commend you your attention Here First's comment, above. This is a debate about US immigration policy, so I think references to Nazis are unwarranted.

What about your policy?


"This is what real solidarity looks like and speaking truth to power."

Adding to your arrest record while accomplishing nothing? Awesome

@ Amanda:

What "truth"? Your opinion is "truth"? Your belief is "truth"? Your views are "truth"?

And whose "power"? What "power"? A Vermont police officer who did his job under current U.S. law?

Get a grip.

Okay, I'm all for activism, but seriously guys? The police "racially profiled" the passengers of A SPEEDING CAR. They were breaking the law by speeding, could have killed someone or themselves, cop pulls them over, asks for their I.D. WHICH he has a right to do, bam they're undocumented (illegal) and have none. Thus detained. Cops were doing their jobs, and I' give it to them in this situation they were being extremely gentle especially with the big guy that was getting cuffed. Now if the car full of illegal immigrants t-boned your 17year old son at an intersection because of their reckless driving you'd be singing a different tune.

The cop was exonerated by a special commission yesterday.

But I'm sure that won't satisfy the "activists."

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