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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lawsuit: Feds Used an Informant to Infiltrate Migrant Justice

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 12:11 PM

The Migrant Justice rally outside the federal courthouse - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • The Migrant Justice rally outside the federal courthouse
Updated 7:35 p.m.

Federal immigration authorities used a civilian informant to infiltrate meetings of Migrant Justice as part of a larger, sustained surveillance campaign that targeted members for their activism, the group alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has been helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to engage in an illegal effort to “harass, arrest and detain” farmworker activists, Migrant Justice said in a statement. Its suit names ICE, DHS and the DMV as defendants.

The plaintiffs are represented by a coalition of activists and legal heavyweights: the ACLU of Vermont, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a large law firm headquartered in Los Angeles.
The plaintiffs, from left to right: Miguel Alcudia Gamas, Zully Palacios Rodriguez, Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez and Victor Diaz - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • The plaintiffs, from left to right: Miguel Alcudia Gamas, Zully Palacios Rodriguez, Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez and Victor Diaz

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Vermont Farmworker Jailed After Arrest by ICE

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 4:01 PM

Alejandro Hernández-Ventura - COURTESY: MIGRANT JUSTICE
  • Courtesy: Migrant Justice
  • Alejandro Hernández-Ventura
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested another Vermont farmworker, according to a statement released Friday by Migrant Justice.

Alejandro Hernández-Ventura, 25, was being held at the Strafford County, N.H., detention center in lieu of an $8,000 bond, the group said.

Shortly after leaving home on a dairy farm in Addison County on Sunday, according to an account from Migrant Justice, Hernández-Ventura and his wife noticed that their car was being followed. They pulled over after ICE officers flashed their vehicle lights. The agents pulled the Mexican man out of his car and handcuffed him before driving off.

According to Migrant Justice, Hernández-Ventura has never been arrested or had any previous contact with ICE during the nine years he's been in Vermont.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leahy Bill Would Limit Feds' Authority to Search Near Borders

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:44 PM

  • Kym Balthazar
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday that would reduce the area near international borders where federal agents are allowed to conduct warrantless searches.

United States Border Patrol agents have for years established temporary checkpoints along Interstate 91 in southern Vermont to ask motorists about their citizenship and where they’re going. Some are detained for additional questioning. Because the checkpoint is within 100 miles of the Canadian border, federal law allows agents to do that without a warrant.

Federal law gives authorities expanded power near the borders in order to protect national security. But Leahy said in a statement that a range of 100 miles from the border is unreasonable. The new legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), would shrink the that zone from 100 to 25 miles.

"[T]his 100-mile zone is neither limited nor reasonable," Leahy said. "It includes marine borders. At present, it encompasses almost two-thirds of the population of the United States. This includes major cities such as New York, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles, even the 'border town' of Richmond, Va., as well as entire states such as Maine, Delaware, and Florida."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Somali, Somali Bantu Communities Reel From Double Tragedies

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 9:55 AM

An undated photo of Lul Ali Gure and her children - COURTESY OF SAID ELMI
  • Courtesy of Said Elmi
  • An undated photo of Lul Ali Gure and her children
A fire at a housing complex in Burlington late Saturday morning and a fatal car crash about two hours later have shocked the local Somali and Somali Bantu communities.

The tragedies, both involving refugees from the African nation and occurring just blocks away from each other, took place less than a week before the Islamic holiday of Eid, which Muslims celebrate to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Lul Ali Gure, 29, was killed in a car crash around 1 p.m. Saturday near the Burlington-South Burlington line. She was the passenger in a car driven by Sadio M. Ali, also 29.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Fourteen Undocumented Workers Detained in Colchester Hotel Raid

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 12:14 PM

Activists at a protest last year - FILE: SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • File: Sasha Goldstein
  • Activists at a protest last year
Federal immigration officers arrested and detained 14 undocumented construction workers staying at a Colchester hotel last week, the largest local raid "in recent memory," according to a spokesman for human rights organization Migrant Justice.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at the Days Inn on Route 15 — across the street from Saint Michael's College — around 5 a.m. last Thursday and and arrested the workers in the hotel breakfast room, said owner Darcy Church.* She described it as a "10 minutes, in-and-out" operation where most of the other guests never noticed anything was amiss.

"There was no commotion or anything," Church said.

Workers who were not detained then alerted Migrant Justice, said group spokesman Will Lambek. Many of the workers are being held at ICE's Strafford County House of Corrections in New Hampshire on immigration charges, though some may still be detained in Vermont, he added.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

UVM Administrators Decry 'Racist' Flyers Posted on Campus

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 2:42 PM

One of the flyers that was posted on the University of Vermont campus - COURTESY: THE VERMONT CYNIC
  • Courtesy: The Vermont Cynic
  • One of the flyers that was posted on the University of Vermont campus
Flyers featuring photos of men of color who were recently charged with local crimes appeared on the University of Vermont campus Monday, the federal holiday honoring civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.

"Stop Importing Problems," the text on the flyers read, and listed crimes next to each man's photo.

UVM police are investigating, as is the UVM Bias Response Team. UVM president Tom Sullivan and other top administrators issued this statement on Tuesday:

We regret to inform you that a small number of flyers espousing offensive, racist, anti-immigration views were found yesterday in the vicinity of the UVM Green, posted by an as-yet unknown individual or individuals. These abhorrent views are an assault on our values as an institution, as articulated in Our Common Ground. We condemn these flyers unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms. Our University strives to maintain a welcoming environment for all members of our community. 
The Vermont Cynic student newspaper first reported on the flyers. They were discovered as UVM prepared to kick off a series of events to honor King and explore civil rights topics during the coming week.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Despite Activist Outcry, Panel Passes Updated Impartial Policing Policy

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Jay Diaz, a staff attorney for the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, speaks with Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Jay Diaz, a staff attorney for the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, speaks with Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell.
Vermont’s Criminal Justice Training Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an updated Fair and Impartial Policing policy to serve as a model for law enforcement agencies across the state.

The policy is meant to prevent cops from discriminating while interacting with the public, but civil liberties and immigration advocates say the new rules actually remove protections from a 2016 version.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Footage Shows Feds Using Ethnic Slur During Traffic Stop

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 5:07 PM

Body camera footage from a Franklin County sheriff's deputy - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Body camera footage from a Franklin County sheriff's deputy

During a traffic stop last summer, a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy quickly discovered the driver of a green Dodge truck couldn’t speak English. Through a translator, the deputy also learned that the man didn’t have a Vermont driver’s license. He radioed for backup from a “Romeo unit.”

Within 10 minutes, U.S. Border Patrol agents were standing next to the green truck.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ben & Jerry's Vows to Better Conditions for Migrant Workers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 5:43 PM

Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice
After more than two years of prodding by a local migrant farmworker advocacy group, Ben & Jerry's has agreed to improve employee conditions at the farms in its supply chain.

Members of Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim announced the deal Tuesday during a celebratory gathering in front of the ice cream shop on Church Street in Burlington. Solheim touted the program as "first in the dairy industry, first in the world."

Then he and members of Migrant Justice signed the Milk With Dignity contract that will eventually be applied to all northeastern farms in Ben & Jerry's supply chain.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Walters: Welch on DACA, 'Surreal Atmosphere' of Trump Meeting

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 1:18 PM

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at a press conference at the Burlington International Airport. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • FIle: Alicia Freese
  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at a press conference at the Burlington International Airport.
Uncertainty is in the air over Washington, D.C., as top congressional Democrats say they have a deal on enacting into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while President Donald Trump insists otherwise. For Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), it's just the latest example of what he calls "an improvisational president. He goes from meeting to meeting, and whatever happens in that meeting is the news of the moment."

Welch attended a meeting on Wednesday that included Trump and 14 members of Congress, split equally between Republicans and Democrats. Welch describes "a quite surreal atmosphere" in which the president talked of bipartisan action while congressional Republicans continue to freeze out the Democrats.

"The president indicated support for the Dreamers [those early arrivals who face deportation unless DACA is extended], but also mentioned security issues," Welch says. "I urged the president to not link security issues with the treatment of the Dreamers, and said that this calls for a Lincolnesque moment in presidential leadership, where we do the right thing because it’s the right thing."

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