-Betsy McGavisk and Ashley Smith, Community Voices for Immigrant Rights
A powerful policing apparatus threatens the rights, livelihood and safety of undocumented immigrants in our state. The combined forces of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and local police and sheriffs collaborate in their arrest, detention and deportation.
Police and immigration authorities do so despite the state’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy, which had intended to end such collaboration. But the policy contains loopholes allow it to continue, putting immigrants in jeopardy.
For example, in November, a Chittenden County Sheriff detained an undocumented farmworker, Luis “Chiri” Ulloa, whose crime was being in the backseat of a car pulled over for speeding. By using the routine stop to ask for immigration documents, the Sheriff was able to hand Chiri over to border patrol, who shipped him off to a prison in New Hampshire where he is being processed for deportation.
Activists in the farmworker organization, Migrant Justice, argue that in asking for Chiri’s immigration status, the officer violated the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. But the Sheriff’s department denies that, claiming that requesting immigration papers is allowed under the current policy.
Clearly the confusion about the state’s policy that allowed this outrageous violation of Chiri’s rights must be ended. The attorney general, T.J. Donovan, has stated that the state’s policy is a floor, not a ceiling, and local governments can adopt stronger versions of the policy in order to close the loopholes that allowed for Chiri’s detention and pending deportation.
That is why activists in Migrant Justice and Community Voices for Immigrant Rights have come together in a campaign called No Mas Polimigra BTV (which in Spanish means “no more police-immigration collaboration”). We are demanding that the Burlington City Council pass a resolution that would tighten Burlington’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy and prevent any and all collusion between the Burlington Police Department (BPD), ICE and CBP.
We are doing so out of the conviction that no human being is illegal and, as Senator Patrick Leahy said recently, “‘show me your papers’ are words that you should never hear once inside the United States.”
The city council resolution we are presenting is modeled on Winooski’s Fair and Impartial Policing, which was drafted by Migrant Justice and the ACLU of Vermont. Winooski’s improved policy was passed unanimously by the Winooski City Council, and ratified by the Attorney General. Similarly our proposal for Burlington , would close four loopholes that currently allow Burlington police to:
- Report the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crimes to deportation agents.
- Ask about a person’s immigration status on suspicion of having recently crossed the border.
- Share confidential information with immigration agents on grounds of “public safety” or “law enforcement needs.”
- Give deportation agents access to individuals in police custody, effectively turning local police stations into temporary holding cells for ICE and Border Patrol.
Closing these loopholes will end collaboration of the BPD and immigration authorities, protect the right of undocumented workers, and help prevent what was done to Chiri from being done to anyone else. It will also ensure that our local taxes are spent on programs that benefit our community rather than funding a federal program aimed to intimidate and control immigrants.
If we are successful in getting Burlington to adopt Winooski’s strengthened Fair and Impartial Policing Policy, we will set a precedent for other cities and towns to do the same throughout the state. We can then push for the state government to follow our lead and close the loopholes state-wide.
Vermont can and should set an example for the whole country that we reject the anti-immigrant racism whipped up by President Trump and all the attacks on immigrant rights by his administration and those that preceded him. We can make Migrant Justice’s slogan, “Vermont Will Fight for Immigrant Rights,” a proven reality and model for the rest of the nation.
We all have a common interest in this struggle, because, as the old union slogan taught us, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Politicians and bosses use attacks on immigrants to slash wages and curtail rights for some to pit against others in a race to the bottom.
The only response to such attacks is to unite and fight for equal rights for all. Join us in the struggle in Burlington and throughout the state to close the loopholes in the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy and defend immigrant workers.
Reach out to Burlington’s city councilors and mayor, encourage them to support our resolution and join us for upcoming teach-ins and demonstrations in support of the campaign. To find out more, contact us at [email protected] and also get involved in supporting Migrant Justice’s many campaigns to advance the rights of farmworkers and all immigrants in our state.