The ACLU, in coalition with Migrant Justice, Justice for All, and other civil rights groups, has been advocating for years to keep local police out of the deportation business and prevent racial bias from influencing law enforcement.
Those efforts paid off in 2017, when the Vermont legislature passed historic racial justice legislation, Act 54, requiring all law enforcement agencies in the state to fully adopt a model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP). The FIPP is designed to protect all Vermonters from biased policing based on personal characteristics (like race, gender, or sexual orientation) or immigration status. It also limits local police from engaging in immigration enforcement.
This statewide policy is more important than ever given the Trump administration’s extreme anti-immigrant stance, including threats to so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions – and it should still be made stronger.
The most recent version of the FIPP that was approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council in December 2017, and that’s currently being implemented by law enforcement agencies across the state, falls short of what community stakeholders have advocated for in a few key areas. The current policy:
- Gives police too much leeway to share information with ICE and Border Patrol, which could lead to more instances like this one in Franklin County, where a simple traffic stop resulted in a legally questionable detention;
- Lacks protections for witnesses and victims of crimes who may be dissuaded from asking for help out of fear they may be referred to ICE;
- Allows police to question and detain people who they suspect have “recently crossed the border,” opening the door for increased profiling of immigrants and people of color;
- Lacks protections to limit ICE access to people in police custody.
The good news is that groups like Migrant Justice, ACLU and Justice for All have built a strong movement with community members across the state who want to ensure a strong Fair and Impartial Policing Policy and make sure that local jurisdictions take every possible measure to protect people of color and immigrant communities from biased policing. We’re also pursuing a FOIA investigation to uncover examples of ICE and Border Patrol abuse which demonstrate why a stronger FIPP is needed.
In October 2018, the FIPP will again be up for review and we’ll be working with our partners to push for the changes we’d like to see in the policy. Until then, the best way for concerned community members to support our efforts is to hold their local law enforcement agencies accountable to adopting the current FIPP and training officers on all aspects of this anti-bias policy.
ACLU and Migrant Justice are available to talk to groups interested in meeting with their local law enforcement officials to discuss how they are implementing the FIPP and creating police accountability. Let us know how we can support your efforts on the ground so together we can eliminate racial profiling and ensure the rights of immigrants in Vermont.
For more information, contact ACLU-VT Community Organizer, Nico Amador at firstname.lastname@example.org.