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Monday, March 16, 2020

Bridging Language Barriers: Bidur Dahal

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 12:06 AM

Bidur Dahal - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Bidur Dahal
Editor's note: Seven Days is profiling some of the people defending Vermonters from COVID-19.

Bidur Dahal is usually busy this time of year preparing for the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, a birth celebration for the deity Rama. Dahal, a founding member of the Vermont Hindu Temple on Allen Street in Burlington, prints up flyers and promotes the event on the temple’s Facebook page. But this year, the coronavirus has changed things: Temple leadership has postponed Ram Navami and all other events until further notice.

“We ideally don’t want any gatherings anymore now until this subsides, is over,” Dahal said. 

The temple has been mostly empty lately, although the altar is festooned with   flowers and twinkling lights against a backdrop of colorful prints of gods and goddesses. Instead of congregating in front of the altar, worshippers are encouraged to pray and chant at home. 

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Burlington City Council Passes Amended Impartial Policing Policy

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2020 at 1:27 AM

Activists at City Hall - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Activists at City Hall
The Burlington City Council on Monday night voted to adopt a policy that will bar local police from collaborating with federal immigration agents.

The council voted 11 to 1 to approve a new Fair and Impartial Policing Policy, with outgoing City Council President Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) casting the lone no vote.

The sizable crowd erupted in cheers as soon as the vote total was announced.

“Vermont will fight for immigrant rights!” they chanted.

The elation was in stark contrast with the tense atmosphere that dominated most of the hourlong discussion. When a member of the crowd applauded or spoke out of turn, Wright threatened to delay action on the item, which drew a large, passionate crowd at two consecutive city council meetings.

The council president's attempts to restore decorum were met with boos and jeers. When someone interrupted Councilor Chip Mason (D-Ward 5)'s statement, Wright urged them to listen to differing points of view. "Well fuck you, too!" the person yelled in response.

After the vote, a Channel 17 livestream of the meeting recorded Wright discussing his thoughts on the vote.

“I’m ashamed of this council,” he said. “I really am.”

"Nothing but a bunch of pandering city councilors," Wright continued. "Just pandered to them. Disgraceful."

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Sheriff Clears Deputy Accused of Violating Fair and Impartial Policy

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 4:56 PM

Migrant Justice protesting outside the Chittenden County Sheriff's Department - FILE: COLIN FLANDERS
  • File: Colin Flanders
  • Migrant Justice protesting outside the Chittenden County Sheriff's Department
The Chittenden County sheriff has cleared a deputy involved in the November detainment of a 21-year-old farmworker.

Advocacy group Migrant Justice had accused Deputy Jeffry Turner of violating the department's policies on fair and impartial policing during a November 22 traffic stop, arguing that he had no reason to inquire about Luis Ulloa’s immigration status or prolong the stop until federal authorities arrived.

But Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin said Friday that Turner's actions were justified because he was concerned that he was dealing with a potential human trafficking situation.

“There is no evidence that supports the contention that Deputy Sheriff Turner’s purpose in dealing with the individuals in the vehicle (that he had lawfully stopped) was to enforce federal immigration law,” McLaughlin wrote in a six-page report released Friday afternoon.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

DMV Settles With Migrant Justice Over Its Role In ICE Crackdown

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 2:35 PM

Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar, left, and Will Lambek - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Colin Flanders
  • Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar, left, and Will Lambek
Updated at 3:59 p.m.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles committed to policy changes and antidiscrimination training to settle legal claims that its employees aided immigration authorities' crackdown on undocumented activists.

Migrant Justice, an advocacy group for undocumented farmworkers that sued the DMV and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in November 2018, announced the settlement Wednesday at the Vermont Statehouse.

"This agreement will create a set of protections that will be strong enough to guarantee the safety and security for all," Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar said through an interpreter.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Migrant Justice Plans Protest After Farmworker Is Detained

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2019 at 8:46 PM

  • Courtesy of Migrant Justice
  • Luis Ulloa
Activists have called for an emergency demonstration Tuesday morning to protest the Chittenden County Sheriff's Department over its role in the recent detainment of a 21-year-old farmworker.

Advocacy group Migrant Justice has accused Deputy Jeffry Turner of violating the department's policies on fair and impartial policing during a November 22 traffic stop of a car along Interstate 89.

Turner pulled over the vehicle for speeding and asked its passengers to provide identification. When Luis Ulloa, who lives in Franklin County, presented a Mexican passport, the deputy photographed the document, contacted U.S. Border Patrol agents and prevented the vehicle from leaving until they arrived, Migrant Justice said in a press release Monday.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Migrant Justice Wins $150,000 Grant to Expand Milk With Dignity

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 at 6:49 PM

Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice - FILE: KATIE JICKLING
  • File: Katie Jickling
  • Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice
Migrant Justice has won a $150,000 grant in recognition of its efforts to expand its Milk with Dignity program, which seeks to provide migrant farmworkers better working conditions.

The grant was announced Wednesday by the Workers Lab, which invests in experimental ways to empower working people. Migrant Justice was among five winners selected from more than 200 applicants for the lab's Fall Innovation Fund challenge.

Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice organizer, said the grant award is a "testament to the work that immigrant dairy workers in Vermont have done to create, fight for and implement this program that’s now transforming the industry."

He and Enrique Balcazar, a Migrant Justice spokesperson, traveled to New York last month to meet with the Workers Lab board of directors and present about the program. The organization received applications from 39 U.S. states and 14 different countries.

Migrant Justice has an operating budget of less than $500,000, Lambek said, so the grant will make a “huge impact."

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Data Dive: Vermont's Refugee Resettlement in Three Revealing Charts

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 10:37 AM

Since 1989, nearly 8,000 refugees from all over the world have resettled in Vermont, arriving from Africa, Europe and Asia. Seven Days has looked at nearly three decades worth of data from the Vermont office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to show what nations they came from — as well as how the influx is declining.

Not surprisingly, the number of newcomers has dropped sharply over the past two years as policy changes by the Trump administration have pushed refugee admissions to historic lows.

Each year, the president establishes a cap on the overall number of applicants the nation will admit, and lower limits on refugees from different regions of the world.

When the U.S. refugee admissions program was established in 1980, the cap was set at more than 230,000. In 2019, it was a mere fraction of that at just 30,000. The Trump administration has proposed further reducing the cap to 18,000 in the 2020 fiscal year, which began on October 1.
Source: U.S. State Department, Migration Policy Institute - ANDREA SUOZZO
  • Andrea Suozzo
  • Source: U.S. State Department, Migration Policy Institute
Vermont's resettlement numbers held relatively steady between 2008 and 2016. During that nine-year period, the state welcomed, on average, 336 refugees each year.

In the three years since, resettlement numbers have fallen dramatically. In 2017, Vermont resettled 236 refugees, and in 2019, just 115.

Given its relatively small population, Vermont has historically welcomed an  outsized proportion of all refugees accepted into the U.S. each year. While Vermont has about 0.2 percent of the population of the United States, the state received at least 0.6 percent of refugees resettled in 2011 and 2012.
Sources: U.S. State Department, USCRI Vermont - ANDREA SUOZZO
  • Andrea Suozzo
  • Sources: U.S. State Department, USCRI Vermont
Vermont welcomed 7,956 refugees during the three decades between 1989 and 2019. Though that's a statewide total, nearly all of those people landed in Chittenden County, the majority in Burlington and Winooski.

That's not a count of the number of former refugees who currently live in the state; once resettled, people move into and out of Vermont. It also doesn't include people who immigrated via the U.S.'s asylum program.

But those numbers do provide a window into global upheaval over the past three decades. The graphic below shows that in the 1990s, the majority of refugees resettled were from Bosnia and Vietnam. The majority of arrivals in the last decade have been from Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

You can explore 30 years of refugee resettlement in Vermont in the chart below:

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Man Charged With Sending ICE a Phony Tip

Posted By on Mon, Aug 26, 2019 at 6:08 PM

  • Aaron Shrewsbury
A Burlington man was charged in federal court Monday with making a phony complaint to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to charging documents. Cole Swarkowski, 23, claimed that he had overheard a man, whom he said was South African, talk about obtaining guns in order to harm others.

"This individual is not american, he is dangerous, he wants to carry firearms and I heard him say that he wants to harm individuals with said firearms," said that tip, submitted though an online portal. The agency asked a Vermont State Police trooper to find and interview the man named.

A trooper conducted a vehicle stop. The man was with his wife and their newborn child, according to an affidavit filed by Homeland Security Special Agent Timothy O'Leary.

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

As Hundreds Protest ICE, Border Patrol Runs a Checkpoint

Posted By and on Sun, Jul 28, 2019 at 11:12 PM

Protesters blocking the road in front of ICE's Williston intelligence center - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Protesters blocking the road in front of ICE's Williston intelligence center
Updated 2:45 p.m. July 29, 2019

Several hundred protesters marched through Williston to the nondescript Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence center on Sunday in an effort to draw attention to the state’s little-known role in Trump’s national immigration crackdown.

Nineteen people were cited for disorderly conduct after blocking entrances to the 24-7 facility for two hours. But the federal government’s pursuit of undocumented immigrants continued unabated, as ICE’s sister agency, Customs and Border Protection, set up a highway enforcement checkpoint in South Hero during the widely publicized demonstration against federal deportations.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Weinberger: Migrants Welcome in Burlington if Trump Carries Out Plan

Posted By on Mon, Apr 15, 2019 at 7:37 PM

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger speaking Monday - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger speaking Monday
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city would welcome migrants apprehended at the southern border if President Donald Trump makes good on his plan to send them to sanctuary cities.

Weinberger first announced his position Saturday afternoon following the president’s tweet Friday that he is "giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities," or municipalities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Weinberger has vowed to buck the Trump administration's immigration policies before, and on Monday, the mayor called the president's latest proposal “un-American.”

“Here in Burlington, we do not buy into, we do not support [Trump’s] very dark vision of immigrants that are attempting to come to this country to seek asylum,” Weinberger said at an afternoon news conference.

He said immigrants are often “fleeing very difficult situations” and have enriched Burlington’s community.

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