Tuesday, August 30, 2016

DMV Settles Jordanian National's Discrimination Complaint

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 2:29 PM

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has settled a complaint brought by a Jordanian national who alleged that DMV workers discriminated against him by alerting federal immigration officials after he applied for a driver’s privilege card.

The DMV allegedly violated Vermont’s Driver’s Privilege Card law, which allows undocumented immigrants living in Vermont to drive legally. 

The DMV agreed to pay Abdel Razaq Rababah $40,000, change its driver’s license application, and provide training to prevent employees from engaging in discrimination. The DMV made other concessions as part of a deal with the Vermont Human Rights Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

“Actions like those taken against Mr. Rababah, based on his national origin, have a chilling effect on others who may wish to take advantage of this important program,” Human Rights Commissioner Karen Richards said in a prepared statement. “The public-interest relief obtained through this settlement will help to ensure that this vital benefit is available to those it is intended to serve without risk of immigration consequences.”

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Arizona Attorney to Take Charge of Vermont ACLU

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 7:04 PM

Allen Gilbert is retiring after 12 years leading the ACLU of Vermont. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Allen Gilbert is retiring after 12 years leading the ACLU of Vermont.
An attorney from the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will take charge of the Vermont chapter this summer, the organization announced Monday.

James Duff Lyall, of Tuscon, Ariz., will replace Allen Gilbert as executive director of the ACLU of Vermont on July 25. The state chapter is based in Montpelier.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Rutland Aldermen to Discuss Syrian Refugee Plan

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 12:15 PM

Downtown Rutland - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Downtown Rutland
The Rutland Board of Aldermen on Wednesday will debate a controversial plan to welcome 100 Syrian refugees to the city later this year.

Officials from the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, which selected Rutland as a relocation site after an aggressive push from Mayor Chris Louras, will brief the board at the Godnick Adult Center meeting.

Many of the aldermen have questioned the plan. They've also criticized Louras. He volunteered Rutland as a host city and spent months planning for the refugees' arrival with no public notice and little input from the aldermen or local legislators. Rival citizen groups supporting and opposing the refugees' arrival have formed.

"I am extremely concerned about the process, or lack of process," Alderman David Allaire said in an interview. "I've got constituents all over this city who are surprised and hurt and have lots of questions that are still not being answered."

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Detained Farmworker Activist Victor Diaz to Be Released on Bond

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 4:11 PM

Victor Diaz, center, after discussing the “Milk With Dignity” campaign with a Ben & Jerry’ - s representative. - COURTESY OF MIGRANT JUSTICE
  • Courtesy of Migrant Justice
  • Victor Diaz, center, after discussing the “Milk With Dignity” campaign with a Ben & Jerry’s representative.
Addison County farmworker and activist Victor Diaz will be released from custody after federal immigration officials detained him, the organization Migrant Justice said on Wednesday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers took Diaz into custody on April 21 and placed him in a prison in Dover, N.H. ICE subsequently released a statement that described Diaz as a citizen of Mexico and said he became an “enforcement priority” after he was convicted of DUI last November.

Diaz is still facing deportation, but he can return to Vermont while the legal process plays out. He is 24, and has worked on Vermont dairy farms for about six years.

At a hearing this Wednesday at the Boston Immigration Court, a judge set bond for Diaz at $1,500 — the lowest amount allowed under law. 

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Vermont-to-Montréal Train Proposal Chugging Slowly Along

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 12:21 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s point person on the restoration of train service between Vermont and Montréal reported to lawmakers Tuesday that the project is still on track.

Brian Searles, former secretary of transportation, noted two promising developments in recent weeks — the introduction of a bill in Congress that would enable negotiations to begin, and a promise from new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his U.S. visit that Parliament would pass similar authorization this spring.

Amtrak’s Vermonter, which now runs between St. Albans and Washington, D.C., used to go to Montréal, until 1995, Searles said. But requirements for crew changes and a border stop created lengthy delays “that basically rendered it noncompetitive with the auto,” he said.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In Burlington, a Bosnian Refugee Agrees to Leave U.S. in Plea Deal

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 4:04 PM

  • Courtesy of Elizabeth Tailer
  • Edin Sakoc
A Bosnian refugee accused of war crimes agreed Wednesday to forfeit his citizenship in a plea deal.

Edin Sakoc's conviction for lying to immigration officials was overturned by a judge in July. In documents filed in U.S. District Court, the former Burlington resident agreed to leave America and never return in exchange for having charges against him dropped.

The "denaturalization" process is expected to take several months. Sakoc has a wife and young daughter who could remain in the U.S. 

Sakoc was accused of kidnapping and raping one woman and assisting a soldier who murdered two other women during the Bosnian War in 1992. Sakoc, a Muslim, was in a military unit that battled ethnic Serbs. The women he is accused of targeting were Serbs. He denied the rape, and said he participated in legitimate wartime actions.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Burlington's Next School Chief Is Still Stuck in Canada

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:00 PM

  • Courtesy photo
  • Yaw Obeng
Visa applications have been denied for the Canadian citizen who has been tapped to lead the Burlington School District.

Burlington school officials say they will appeal the denial earlier this month of an O-1 visa that would have allowed Yaw Obeng to start his $153,000-a-year job as superintendent of city schools. 

The denial keeps Obeng in limbo. But he still wants the job. And he says he's confident he'll get a visa.  

"My intention is to be in Burlington for the long haul," Obeng said by telephone Thursday. "If it takes a couple extra months to make that happen, in the long term I think it's going to be worth that effort.”  

Obeng is a senior administrator at the Halton school district in suburban Toronto. He says he doesn't plan to officially resign from that job until his work papers come through.

It's unclear when and whether that will happen. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services in St. Albans processed the O-1 application. Director Laura B. Zuchowski wrote the denial. She found the application failed to demonstrate that Obeng has the extraordinary ability and sustained national or international acclaim in his field — education — required to qualify for an O-1 visa. 

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Shumlin: No Large Sites in Vermont for Undocumented Children

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin
Vermont does not have a site that can host 1,000 undocumented children who have crossed the southern border into the United States, Gov. Peter Shumlin wrote a federal official Monday, while also expressing the state's "willingness to help with this humanitarian crisis."

The governor said smaller sites could be available, though that’s not what the federal government is seeking to accommodate the influx of unaccompanied youngsters. The New York Times reports that roughly 57,000 minors, mostly from Central American nations, have crossed into the U.S. since last October.

“ … Working together with some of our organizations like the Red Cross, leaders from the City of Burlington, and other partners, we have developed a few potential options for housing much smaller groups of closer to 75 to 100 children, fully recognizing that is not specifically what your Agency is looking for at this time," Shumlin wrote in a letter to Christie L. Hager, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “My administration would be happy to discuss these options in greater detail if that would be helpful to you.”

Further, Shumlin's letter says that the state has reached out to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, offering to assist his state after he offered the Camp Edwards military base in Bourne and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee as options.

Shumlin's letter closed, "Our hearts go out to these families – parents and children – who have made these dangerous journeys and are now in custody. We support your efforts to find a safe and humane solution to this serious problem. Please let us know if we can help."

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

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

Posted on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM


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

Monday, February 3, 2014

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

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 1:25 PM


Peter 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.

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