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11 posts categorized "Immigration" Feed

November 22, 2011

Welch Signs Letter Asking Obama to End Controversial Immigration Enforcement Program

F-welch1Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) has added his voice to the chorus calling on President Obama to end the controversial immigration-enforcement initiative known as Secure Communities.

Last Thursday, Welch signed a letter penned by U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) calling on the president to "immediately stop" the enforcement program, which compares fingerprints of people arrested by local police to a federal immigration database to look for deportable aliens.

"Secure Communities sows mistrust of the police and other uniformed personnel, thereby making our communities less safe," reads the letter. "The broad scope of the program means that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are afraid to cooperate with police officers, because doing so may lead to deportation of themselves or their families."

Welch could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but spokesman Scott Coriell tells Seven Days that the congressman "continues to be frustrated that Congress has not enacted comprehensive immigration reform that creates a fair path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants, including a guest-worker program that establishes clear guidelines for farmers and their employees"

Continue reading "Welch Signs Letter Asking Obama to End Controversial Immigration Enforcement Program" »

November 04, 2011

Shumlin Makes "Look the Other Way" Official Immigration Enforcement Policy

ShumlinGov. Peter Shumlin and the Department of Public Safety announced a new policy today that effectively prohibits Vermont State Police from asking suspected illegal immigrants for papers unless they are suspected of another crime.

According to a press release, the new policy states that "Vermont State Police troopers should not try to identify people whose only suspected violation is that they are present in the United States without proper documentation, but also makes clear that officers should continue to investigate suspected criminal activity."

Previously, the state police's "bias-free" policy barred troopers from asking about immigration status only when a suspected immigrant was a crime victim or witness. Vermont’s dairy farms are heavily dependent on migrant labor; several thousand Latino workers are employed in Vermont dairies, legally and illegally.

Shumlin launched a review of state policy in September after two undocumented migrant farm workers, one of them an outspoken activist, were detained by state police during a traffic stop and turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol. The governor took heat from Republicans when he said afterward that Vermont's policy on immigration enforcement amounted to "look the other way."

The new policy was authored by Shumlin's former legal counsel Beth Robinson, who the governor recently appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Click here to read Shumlin's press release. Click here to download the policy.

Continue reading "Shumlin Makes "Look the Other Way" Official Immigration Enforcement Policy" »

November 01, 2011

Why Farmer Chris Wagner Hired Migrant Workers to Milk His Cows

Picture 1A Franklin County dairy farmer whose migrant workers were removed by the U.S. Border Patrol earlier this year is speaking out about the incident, and about why he hired Hispanic workers to milk his cows.

Chris Wagner (pictured) and his wife own a 300-cow dairy in the town of Franklin, where he's employed Hispanic workers off and on for the past 10 years. On January 7, 2011, one of his workers was trying to call Mexico and mistakenly dialed 911 instead of 011 (to place an international call.)

When the dispatcher asked the nature of the emergency, the worker allegedly said, "No speak English" and hung up. That 911 hangup triggered a response from the Vermont State Police, who sent two cruisers to the farm. State police, in turn, called the U.S. Border Patrol to come and "act as an interpreter." A short while later, three migrant farmworkers were in federal custody and Wagner was handcuffed in the back of a cruiser.

Wagner says he's speaking out now to clear up what he has long felt are mischaracterizations in the official police report. He also felt prompted by the recent, high-profile detention of a migrant farmworker leader and the debate it sparked over immigration enforcement and migrant labor in Vermont.

"They're excellent workers, very strong work ethic in comparison to some of the local help," Wagner says  of his migrant laborers. "Which is unfortunate because there's so many people that need work and these jobs are available. But there aren't that many people who seem willing to put the effort into some of these highly intensive ag jobs."

Continue reading "Why Farmer Chris Wagner Hired Migrant Workers to Milk His Cows" »

September 21, 2011

Farm Workers File Racial Profiling Complaint With VT Human Rights Commission (Updated With Police Video)


The two undocumented farm workers turned over to the federal immigration authorities by the Vermont State Police last week have filed a racial profiling complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, asserting that the state trooper's suspicion was based solely on the color of their skin.

Danilo Lopez (pictured in hat) and Antonio Meza-Sandoval, both from Mexico, were detained following a traffic stop on I-89 in Middlesex on September 13, when a car in which they were passengers was pulled over for going 88 mph. On Monday, they filed a formal complaint at the Human Rights Commission offices.

"We are hopeful that this process will confirm that what happened was discriminatory so that it won't happen again to anyone in Vermont," Lopez said in a statement. "We also hope that the State will take measures to improve its Bias-Free-Policing policy and clearly direct police to not discriminate based on suspected immigration status."

The complaint follows public release of the police video (above) from the cruiser that stopped the car the farm workers were riding in. After viewing the 35-minute video, Lopez said he "re-lived the officer's pressure. He focused immediately on us upon approaching the vehicle. He threatened me with one last chance to speak up 'or else,' even though I wanted to remain silent."

Also, state Rep. Kesha Ram (D-Burlington) is wading into the controversy, saying in a statement released by the Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project that, "Upon watching clips of the detention of Danilo and Antonio, I am deeply concerned as both a state legislator and a person of color. We cannot reasonably enforce broken federal immigration policies in our state that are disconnected from the reality of our agricultural needs and practices. This incident strengthens my resolve to end racial profiling in Vermont, and I look forward to working with Governor Shumlin to that end."

Continue reading "Farm Workers File Racial Profiling Complaint With VT Human Rights Commission (Updated With Police Video)" »

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.

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

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."

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

August 18, 2011

Migrant Farmworkers to Shumlin: Denounce Immigration Enforcement Program

DSC00150 Two migrant farm workers took a day off Thursday to deliver a petition to Gov. Peter Shumlin asking him to oppose a controversial federal immigration enforcement program. But the governor was tied up in meetings, so Danilo Lopez and Over Lopez (pictured) pleaded their case with the Agency of Agriculture's second-in-command instead.

For the last month, the Lopezes (who are not related) have been organizing migrant workers on Vermont dairy, vegetable and horse farms in opposition to Secure Communities, or S-Comm, an Obama administration program that shares fingerprints collected by local police agencies with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 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 who have no criminal record.

Asked about S-Comm at his weekly press conference, Shumlin said that on a "philosophical level" he believes Vermont should treat migrant workers with "respect and dignity." But he stopped well short of committing to taking a stand against the program.

"I haven't seen exactly what they're asking us to do," the governor said, "so I'm gonna plead the Fifth."

Continue reading "Migrant Farmworkers to Shumlin: Denounce Immigration Enforcement Program" »

June 09, 2010

Newlyweds Accuse Border Patrol of Ruining Their Wedding in St. Albans

Talk about wedding crashers. Newlyweds Danielle and Thierno Diallo of Essex claim that last Saturday night their wedding in St. Albans was "ruined" by Border Patrol agents, who showed up at their reception and began questioning the wedding party and guests about their immigration status. The couple claims that the federal response occurred for no other reason than that many of their guests had dark skin and African accents.

However, Border Patrol tells a very different story. According to Mark Henry, operations officer for U.S. Border Patrol's Swanton sector, his agents were simply responding to a call about "multiple suspicious individuals on Main Street in St. Albans" congregating around a "closed or abandoned store or building."

According to the newlyweds' account, which they told at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, the evening started out as a joyous occasion. Danielle, 31, is white, grew up in Winooski and currently works as a hair salon manager in Burlington. She says the wedding ceremony was held in front of the fountain in Taylor Park in St. Albans and went off without a hitch. It was followed immediately thereafter by a traditional African drumming ceremony.

Afterwards, the guests proceeded to a reception at the St. Albans clubhouse of the Vermont Voltage, a semi-pro soccer team that Thierno plays for and coaches. Thierno, 28, is black and originally from Guinea, west Africa. He spent most of his formative years in France before moving to Vermont in 2001 and still speaks with an African accent. He's been with the Vermont Voltage soccer team since 2002, is active in the St. Albans community and has permanent resident status in the United States.

There were no initial signs of trouble brewing, though Danielle recalls that after the ceremony, a few young passersby in cars shouted racial epithets at the newlyweds and their guests and told them to "go home." 

But the Diallos say that things didn't really get ugly until about 9:30 p.m. That's when, he claims, more than a half-dozen Border Patrol units showed up at their reception site and began questioning the groom and his guests outside about their immigration status.

"We're not quite sure why they showed up," Danielle reports. "They just showed up and proceeded to ask for papers... and questioned the legality of people attending our wedding."

 "I've attended a lot of weddings in St. Albans," Thierno adds "I've never seen immigration coming in and asking people 'Why are you here and where are you coming from?'"

Continue reading "Newlyweds Accuse Border Patrol of Ruining Their Wedding in St. Albans" »

May 13, 2010

"Earthquake Defense" Will Make Haitian a Free Man — Probably

Haiti_earthquake_map Did the "earthquake defense" work for Felicier Edmond, a Haitian immigrant busted illegally crossing the Canadian border into Vermont?

Looks that way. Edmond secured a plea deal in federal court in Burlington on Tuesday that got him a lesser charge (a misdemeanor instead of a felony) and no additional jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. He could have gotten 6 months in prison and up to $5000 in fines.

The sentence came with a big ironic twist: Felicier will probably be allowed to remain in the U.S., even though he, like thousands of other Haitians who came here after the quake, have standing deportation orders.

Click here for background on the flood of Haitians into Vermont. Click here for background on Edmond.

Continue reading ""Earthquake Defense" Will Make Haitian a Free Man — Probably" »

May 04, 2010

Haitian on Trial: Testing "The Earthquake Defense"

Haiti_earthquake_map Does the devastating earthquake in Haiti — and the need to send money to suffering family members there — provide a valid defense for a Haitian immigrant caught illegally crossing from Canada into Vermont?

We're about to find out.

Thirty-seven-year-old Felicier Edmond, one of more than 100 Haitian immigrants jailed for illegally crossing the Canada-Vermont border this winter, is pressing his case at a jury trial in federal court in Burlington — and the tragic earthquake is central to his defense. Edmond goes on trial May 17 and 18 for illegal re-entry. He was caught on February 5 near Newport by U.S. Border Patrol agents acting on a neighbor's tip.

(Click here for 7D background on the flood of Haitians pouring into Vermont).

According to court filings, Edmond's lawyer, David Watts of Burlington, will argue a "necessity" defense that amounts to: Edmond's family in Haiti faced a life-and-death situation after the earthquake and had insufficient funds to survive without money sent by Edmond, and that he had to return to the U.S. because he couldn't find work in Canada.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, have asked the judge to exclude any testimony about the earthquake — or its impacts on Edmond's family — as irrelevant and prejudicial.

Continue reading "Haitian on Trial: Testing "The Earthquake Defense"" »

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