Despite some concessions to advocates’ demands, law enforcement officials vote to weaken Vermont immigrant rights protections



Nico Amador, Community Organizer, ACLU of Vermont: [email protected]; (215) 776-8444

Will Lambek, Organizer, Migrant Justice // Justicia Migrante: [email protected]; (802) 321-8393

PITTSFORD – On Tuesday, the Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC) voted to approve a proposed redraft of the state’s Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) Policy, rejecting stakeholders’ request for additional negotiations on the most contentious issues. Representatives from community organizations across the state testified in support of a stronger policy, echoing the concerns of the organizations involved in drafting the original policy, Migrant Justice, the ACLU, and Justice for All.

This meeting came after months of negotiation over the policy’s provisions addressing Vermont police involvement in federal immigration enforcement. While a number of issues were resolved, advocates voiced strong concerns that the revised policy left the door open for civil rights abuses, and vowed continued advocacy.

“We have fought hard for our rights, to come out of the shadows and live without fear.  This policy will open the door to more discrimination and collaboration with deportation agents,” said Migrant Justice leader Enrique Balcazar, who was arrested by immigration agents earlier this year after the DMV shared his driver’s license application with ICE.

“These are not theoretical concerns,” echoed Will Lambek, also with Migrant Justice, who referenced other cases, including a recent traffic stop by the Franklin County Sherriff Department. Police body camera footage from that stop shows deputies calling Border Patrol and aiding with the detention of two dairy workers.

“We respect the VCTJC and the Attorney General’s concerns about complying with federal law. However, the Council has adopted an overly cautious interpretation of the law that ultimately does a disservice to Vermont communities. Other cities and states have stronger provisions that have withstood challenges in court,” said Jay Diaz of the ACLU.

Other organizations represented at the meeting included the Rutland NAACP, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Interfaith Action, Indivisible, and Windham County People Power.

“We’re disappointed that the VCJTC moved ahead with this policy, but we see an opportunity to continue advocating on these issues within the state legislature.  This is not the end of the fight, and I’m hearted by the level of public support that’s been built for racial justice and immigrant rights throughout the state,” said Anna Stevens of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.