Immigration

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Advocates Voice Concerns Over Burlington Policing Policy

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo
An ad hoc committee charged with crafting Burlington’s sanctuary city proposal adjourned its meeting Tuesday amidst shouts as spectators accused city councilors of an exclusive process that’s lacking in transparency.

“I may seem disruptive ... but it feels like once again you are oppressing your community and not allowing us to have a voice in the process,” argued Mark Hughes, cofounder of the racial justice organization Justice For All, from the seats of Burlington City Hall Auditorium.

City Council President Jane Knodell struggled to quiet the crowd of about 20 as audience members raised their voices to argue that the new policy proposal hadn’t included enough input from stakeholders and the public.

“This is the just the beginning of the process,” Knodell responded to Hughes as the crowd yelled out dissent. “We can have a whole meeting of public forum on this topic.”

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Will Scott Stand Up to Trump? That Depends

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 9:12 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters Monday in Montpelier. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters Monday in Montpelier.
Governor-elect Phil Scott didn’t support — and has said he didn’t vote for — Donald Trump for president. But now that the two Republicans are about to take office, what kind of relationship will Vermont’s next governor have with the next president?

Scott offered some hints at a press conference Monday at his Montpelier transition office. He seemed loath to tick off the top dog, yet promised to be an “independent voice.”

Vermonters should not expect to hear Scott to raise that independent voice either for or against Trump’s staffing picks. Scott declined to characterize any of Trump’s choices so far as good or bad.

“Most of the people he’s appointed I’ve never heard of,” Scott said. “There’s not anyone in particular that I’ve thought anything about.”

Scott said he’s been focused largely on his own administration’s hiring blitz and writing a state budget that’s due two weeks after he takes office. He’s announced just two cabinet members so far and said he expects to name more on Tuesday.

Scott made several statements that indicated he’s not inclined to speak out against Trump in these early transition days. “I’m not looking to poke my finger in the eye of the president-elect,” he said, commenting that he’s “over” being distressed about Trump’s actions.

But Scott indicated he will stand up to Trump “when it’s appropriate.” That time, he said, is “when Vermont is vulnerable.”

Scott, who takes office January 5, could find Vermont in conflict with the Trump administration on any number of issues — including immigration.

The president-elect has pledged to cut federal funding to localities that become “sanctuary” cities for undocumented immigrants.

Several Vermont cities, including Burlington and Winooski, are considering establishing themselves as sanctuary cities that would not help federal authorities pursue undocumented immigrants. Scott said he supports their right to do that.

Scott said he doesn’t have plans to make significant changes in state policy on the issue. Under departing Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont enacted a policy directing state police not to report undocumented immigrants with whom they come into contact to federal officials.

Scott said Monday that he and his staff have not discussed that policy, even as he prepared to appoint a public safety commissioner. But he said, “I don’t expect to do anything dramatic.” He added that revoking Shumlin’s policy would qualify as dramatic.

When it comes to Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds, Scott seemed less firm. “I think we have to make sure we’re keeping that in mind,” he said. “We rely heavily on federal funding.”

Scott also said he also supports the concept behind Shumlin’s decision last week to pardon those convicted of possession of up to one ounce of marijuana before that offense was decriminalized in 2013. But the new gov is worried that the old one will stick him with the work.

Shumlin announced Thursday that he was offering pardons to as many as 17,000 Vermonters. He gave them a Christmas Day deadline to apply — just 12 days before Shumlin leaves office.

Scott said his staff reached out to Shumlin’s to emphasize he hopes the pardoning will be done before Shumlin leaves.

“It’s not an easy process,” Scott said. “My hope is he will be able to fill his responsibility.”

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said that’s the plan. “It’s a priority of ours,” he said. As of Monday morning, 250 people had applied for pardons.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Burlington City Council Votes — Twice — to Welcome Immigrants

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 11:58 PM

A large crowd at Burlington City Council - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • A large crowd at Burlington City Council
The Burlington City Council voted overwhelmingly Monday to back a pair of resolutions welcoming immigrants.

One supports the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the Queen City, while the second will begin the process of earning Burlington the designation of a sanctuary city. Both motions, which drew a large crowd of civilian supporters, passed easily.

Before the meeting, a group of more than 200 people held a vigil on the Burlington City Hall steps. Attendees cradled candles against the wind and carried signs supporting Syrian refugees.

“I see in this resolution the opportunity to send a message to members of our community to see that the city remains the place we enjoy today, that it is not impacted by these broader national decisions,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Winooski Plans Push for ‘Sanctuary City’ Designation

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 1:23 PM

Winooski - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • FIle: matthew thorsen
  • Winooski
City councilors are considering making Winooski a sanctuary city.

The Onion City would put on paper its practice of not asking residents about immigration status while “providing municipal services or in the course of law enforcement,” according to a city council resolution. The resolution describes the city as Vermont’s “most diverse community.”

Councilors on Monday evening will discuss and possibly vote on the resolution, which would set in motion the research and development of specific policy, Mayor Seth Leonard said.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Burlington Officials Back Mayor’s ‘Sanctuary City’ Proposal

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 4:40 PM

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo (left) and Mayor Miro Weinberger - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo (left) and Mayor Miro Weinberger
Updated at 6:24 p.m.

Burlington could be designated a “sanctuary city” before president-elect Donald Trump even takes office.

The Burlington City Council hopes to craft and present a resolution by the end of December, according to council President Jane Knodell. The designation would mean municipal employees, including police, would not ask people about their immigration status during calls for service. It also means city employees wouldn’t round up undocumented immigrants at the behest of the federal government.

The policy allows undocumented immigrants to contact law enforcement if they’ve been a victim of a crime, witnessed a crime or otherwise need police services — without fearing reprisal, according to police Chief Brandon del Pozo.
Queen City police have long carried out such a practice, del Pozo said.

“We want to continue the relationship of trust we’ve built with the people who need our protection by locally emphasizing crime fighting over immigration issues,” del Pozo said in a statement Friday.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Weinberger: Burlington to Seek Status as 'Sanctuary City'

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 6:36 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger speaking at a news conference about ballot questions - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger speaking at a news conference about ballot questions
As president-elect Donald Trump vows to clamp down on undocumented immigrants, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wants to take steps in the opposite direction.

Speaking with Vermont Public Radio Thursday, Weinberger announced his intention to make Burlington a sanctuary city for immigrants, codifying protections for undocumented immigrants who are pulled over by police, and prohibiting municipal workers or law enforcement from asking about immigration status.

Burlington already meets most of those requirements, and considered formally becoming a sanctuary city in the early 2000s, Weinberger noted.

“Our practices have been consistent with cities that consider themselves sanctuary cities and what I think it is time for now, given the uncertainty in the community, is for us to take that step and to formalize our practices into policy,” he said.

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Backlash to Trump’s Election Spurs Volunteerism, Giving

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 5:19 PM

Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP. - LAURIE STAVRAND
  • Laurie Stavrand
  • Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP.
Local organizations that support civil rights, refugees and access to abortion
say that since Donald Trump was elected president, they’ve received an outpouring of support.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program holds volunteer orientations twice a month. More than 100 people showed up at Wednesday night’s event, community partnership coordinator Laurie Stavrand said.

“We’re just getting a lot of positive energy coming our way, which is great because it’s good when people take action,” she said Thursday. “It helps them, and it helps everybody else.”

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Friday, November 11, 2016

At Mosque Sermon, Imam Urges Muslims to Remain Steadfast

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 5:53 PM

Letter and gifts from community members to the Islamic Society of Vermont - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Letter and gifts from community members to the Islamic Society of Vermont
The message in Imam Islam Hassan's sermon during Friday's midday prayer at the Islamic Society of Vermont's mosque in Colchester was unequivocal.

"Do not leave your country out of fear of someone so insignificant," he told his multiethnic congregation days after Donald Trump won the presidential election. Instead, he said, turn to Allah and continue to be productive and contributing citizens.

"Brothers and sisters, this is the time we get together and excel in everything you are doing," the community leader said.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Migrant Workers: On the Heels of the Election, Increased Anxiety

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 5:55 PM

Activists march in Burlington in October. - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Activists march in Burlington in October.
On Wednesday morning, after Donald Trump had been declared the victor in the presidential election, an undocumented Mexican woman phoned Migrant Justice spokesman Will Lambek. For the first time, she told Lambek, she was hesitant to send her children to school, worried about the blowback they might face.

Insecurity and unease on the part of migrant workers and their families isn't a new phenomenon, emphasized Enrique Balcazar, a former farm worker and an organizer for the human rights group.

But if Trump's win left liberal Vermont in bewildered apprehension, the sentiment was all the more acute for Vermont's migrant worker community. Balcazar and Lambek spent a harried day fielding calls from undocumented laborers and citizens alike, all digesting the election results.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Results Stun Vermont Muslims and Immigrants

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 8:15 PM

Farhad Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Vermont - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Farhad Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Vermont
On Wednesday morning at the Association of Africans Living in Vermont offices, Alisha Laramee sorted clothes that had been donated to the nonprofit. The Kentucky native, who oversees AALV's New Farms for New Americans program, said she was too depressed to work.

Her colleagues looked despondent and spoke in resigned and hushed tones. No one wanted to be interviewed. Rita Neopaney, a Bhutanese woman who on Tuesday was jubilant when describing her first voting experience to Seven Days, stopped to say only that AALV clients had showed up at the office to voice their confusion and fear after Donald Trump was elected president. The nonprofit provides social services, such as case management and workforce development, to refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers.

"I would say that everyone is sad and worried about the future," said Jacob Bogre, AALV's executive director, adding, "We tried to reassure the staff and some of the clients."

"Racism, [that's] what it is," said Thato Ratsebe, the nonprofit's health educator, public relations and direct staff manager. "I'm worried about how my clients feel. These people have lived the refugee experience."

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