In 2013, after a campaign spearheaded by Migrant Justice, Vermont passed legislation creating a new class of driver’s license available regardless of immigration status, called “Driver’s Privilege Cards.” Following the law’s implementation, DMV officials began routinely colluding with ICE in the immigration detention and deportation of many DMV customers, prompting one ICE agent to write to a DMV employee, “We’re going to have to make you an honorary ICE officer!” Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farmworkers. The organization is a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with members Enrique Balcazar, Zully Palacios, and Victor Diaz, all of whom have been unlawfully targeted by ICE.
Despite a 2016 settlement with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the DMV continued to discriminate against applicants and share information with immigration agents. In 2017, the DMV sent to ICE the driver’s license application of community leader Enrique Balcazar, on which a DMV employee had written “Undocumented,” an act that resulted in Enrique’s subsequent detention and potential deportation. Enrique is one of many human rights leaders in Vermont who have been targeted by ICE due to their activism, a pattern detailed in the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs in the suit are represented by 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 LLP.
On January 15, 2020, Migrant Justice settled the lawsuit with DMV. Under the settlement, Vermont has adopted strong provisions protecting drivers’ personal information from unlawful disclosure. The settlement limits what information the DMV collects and under what circumstances that information can be shared with the federal government, and includes training, transparency, and accountability measures that ensure that those protections are realized. A copy of the press release is here.
Plaintiffs also sued ICE and the Department of Homeland Security following an unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest, and detain Migrant Justice members and leaders. Those activities were undertaken in retaliation for plaintiffs’ First Amendment speech and assembly and in order to destabilize Migrant Justice and its successful organizing of Vermont’s immigrant farmworkers.
On October 28, 2020, Plaintiffs settled the lawsuit with the federal defendants, with the government agreeing not to deport the immigrant activists who sued the agency after suffering retaliatory arrests, and to instruct officers not to target people “for exercising First Amendment rights.” ICE also paid damages of $100,000 to be divided among the plaintiffs. You can read our press release here.