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February 06, 2014

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings


Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

February 03, 2014

A Place on Burlington's Ballot Eludes a 'Lost Boy'

LM-peterdeng-MTPeter Garang Deng, a former “Lost Boy” from South Sudan, was poised to become the first refugee to seek elected office in Vermont. But the city clerk last week barred Deng from running for a seat on the Burlington school board because he failed to submit the required number of valid signatures on his candidate petition form.

“It’s very unfair,” Deng said after being notified of his disqualification. “They should be more welcoming of candidates.”

The 27-year-old employment counselor for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program added that his disappointment is such that he’s unlikely to run for office in Vermont in the future. And that’s a potential loss for those who would like to see more racially diverse representation in the nation’s second-whitest state. (Only Maine is more monochromatic).

Burlington’s 16-member school board may be especially in need of a broader racial mix. There are no people of color on the board sets policy for a school district whose students are 30 percent nonwhite.

Continue reading "A Place on Burlington's Ballot Eludes a 'Lost Boy'" »

October 02, 2013

Shumlin, Stenger Call EB-5 Trip to Asia a Success

VietnamNewsBack from an eight-day trip to Asia to court foreign investors, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Jay Peak Resort president Bill Stenger say the mission was a resounding success.

"I'm not prone to hyperbole on this kind of stuff, but it did exceed what I had hoped for," Stenger says. "I was confident it was going to be a good trip, but it turned out even better than I thought."

The delegation, which included Shumlin, Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Miller and an Agency of Commerce employee, met with more than 500 potential investors in four Chinese and Vietnamese cities, Stenger says.

He believes those meetings could result in $50 million worth of investment for Stenger's various Northeast Kingdom development projects. Those include expansions at Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, a biotechnology facility in Newport and other downtown redevelopment projects on Lake Memphremagog.

Continue reading "Shumlin, Stenger Call EB-5 Trip to Asia a Success" »

July 16, 2013

ICE Halts Deportation of Migrant Activist Danilo Lopez — For Now

LopezDanilo Lopez, the Mexican farm worker who became a cause célèbre for Vermont's undocumented farm laborers, won a reprieve in his deportation case today.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement granted Lopez (pictured) a "stay of removal" that will allow him to remain in the country at least another year. Lopez has been under threat of deportation since July 5, stemming from a 2011 traffic stop in which he and another farm worker here illegally were stopped by state police in Interstate 89.

Burlington-based advocacy group Migrant Justice issued a press release announcing the news. In it, Lopez is quoted as saying, "I've gotten such tremendous support during this campaign that we've made ICE change their mind. I feel very fortunate to have so much support — in particular from my community of farm workers who told me: 'We've got your back. We'll fight with  you.'"

Perhaps more importantly, Lopez also had support from Vermont's three-member congressional delegation; U.S.Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch all wrote letters of support to ICE officials. Leahy asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to apply prosecutorial discretion to Lopez's case.

Migrant justice organizers Brendan O'Neill and Natalia Fajardo did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

June 21, 2013

World Refugee Day in Burlington: Bright Lights and Dark Stories

Refugees 006Outside on the Church Street Marketplace, lights shone from crowded bars and restaurants and amplified bands played as the second longest day of the year gave way to evening.

Inside city hall, World Refugee Day was being marked. Survivors of wars in Somalia, Iraq and Burma were telling of their flights to safety in Vermont. All three had lost friends and family members and had experienced extreme violence unimaginable to most Vermonters. Each also mentioned the absence of a convenience — electricity — that was brightly present on the Marketplace.

Zar Ni Maw (pictured), born in the jungle to parents on the run from a military dictatorship, said she had studied the Burmese alphabet in a textbook shared by 15 children. "We could only study in the day," she recounted. "There was no electricity."

Continue reading "World Refugee Day in Burlington: Bright Lights and Dark Stories" »

June 18, 2013

Sanders and Welch Go to Bat for Migrant Farmworker Facing Deportation; Leahy Still Noncommittal

Danilo LopezMexican farmworker leader Danilo Lopez has scored two high-profile supporters in his campaign to fight deportation and stay in Vermont.

On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter on Lopez's behalf to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, asking the agency to reconsider its decision to send Lopez home to Chiapas on July 6.

"Mr. Lopez has been a farmworker in Vermont for five years," Sanders wrote. "He has an excellent reputation as a worker and has been involved in organizing efforts for a group of approximately 1500 farmworkers in our state who do not have legal status. ... I respectfully request that you look into this matter at your earliest convenience..."

Congressman Peter Welch is drafting a similar letter to ICE on Lopez's behalf, says spokesman Ryan Nickel, and will send it by the end of today.

On Monday, Lopez (pictured) made a last-ditch attempt to halt the deportation, sending ICE a petition signed by 1000 supporters along with 20 personal letters asking the feds to exercise "prosecutorial discretion" in the case. The letters from Sanders and Welch add weight to Lopez's appeal but he still lacks the one signature that might matter most: that of Sen. Patrick Leahy.

As debate over federal immigration reform raged in Washington Monday, Leahy spokesman David Carle said Vermont's senior senator had not decided whether to go to bat for Vermont's best-known undocumented immigrant.

"Senator Leahy’s staff in Vermont and on the Judiciary Committee have been exploring for the best way that Senator Leahy could help," Carle said via email.

Continue reading "Sanders and Welch Go to Bat for Migrant Farmworker Facing Deportation; Leahy Still Noncommittal" »

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