Federal Immigration Arrests in Vermont Spark Protests - NECN
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Federal Immigration Arrests in Vermont Spark Protests

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    After three members of Vermont's migrant farmworker community were arrested last week, human rights activists are now preparing to protest.

    (Published Monday, March 20, 2017)

    Human rights activists are planning a rally for Tuesday afternoon outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, following the arrests last week of three members of the state's migrant farmworker community.

    According to the advocacy group Migrant Justice, Jose Enrique "Kike" Balcazar Sanchez, 24, Zully Palacios Rodriguez, 23, and Cesar Alexis Carrillo Sanchez, 23, were taken into custody last week by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

    Two of the detainees, Balcazar and Palacios, have been outspoken advocates for migrant farmworkers.

    Carrillo was a dairy laborer who married a U.S. citizen, according to Migrant Justice. His wife told NBC 5 News last week that the couple had not yet completed paperwork to start the process toward legal residency for her husband, but that she hopes he can be released soon because they have a young child and another on the way.

    None of the detainees had criminal records, Migrant Justice said.

    Carrillo had been charged with drunk driving, but Chittenden County's chief prosecutor said that charge was recently dismissed in exchange for completion of reparative board requirements and a suspension of driving privileges.

    Human rights activists have announced a rally Tuesday afternoon outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier in support of the detainees. That rally is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to organizers.

    "This entire issue is incredibly complicated," observed T.J. Donovan, Vermont's attorney general, in reference to the arrests.

    Vermont is home to roughly 2,000 farm workers who don't have government permission to be in the country, yet their labor is widely considered vital to the state's famous dairy industry.

    Donovan said it appears the agents were following federal law when bringing the three in for alleged immigration violations.

    "Not to say I like it or [don't] like it, but the question of the legality of it — this is permissible," Donovan said of the arrests. "This is legal."

    "We also have reached out to our Congressional delegation over the weekend," Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said. "It's a federal issue, obviously, but we're asking for clarification asking to see if it's something we need to be on top of."

    The administration of President Donald Trump has made national security a priority, and called for an expansion of the ranks of federal immigration agents and border patrol officers.

    Vermont's Congressional delegation, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), and Rep. Peter Welch (D) issued the following statement Monday about the immigration actions:

    "We have expressed our serious concerns to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about these arrests of several farmworkers and farmworker advocates. We are also reaching out to ICE about the potential impact in Vermont of President Trump's executive order calling for increased immigration enforcement. Instead of focusing on removing those people who pose a threat to public safety or national security, the Trump Administration is targeting all undocumented persons, including the people that help keep our dairy farms and rural economy afloat.

    "We are seeing the result of the failure of Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to even consider comprehensive immigration reform, including provisions for undocumented agricultural workers. Instead of common sense reform, we now have a divisive and xenophobic executive order issued unilaterally by President Trump that is tearing families and communities apart, and endangering our dairy farms here in Vermont."

    Opponents of the arrests participated in a large march this past weekend through downtown Burlington, denouncing the detentions.

    "Vermont will fight for immigrant rights," demonstrators chanted Saturday afternoon as they walked down Church Street and back toward the federal building on Elmwood Avenue.

    Dairy worker and human rights activist Victor Diaz spoke to the crowd that gathered downtown. He was once detained himself by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

    "It's so sad families separated, to see partners separated one from the other, and it's just an incredibly sad feeling what ICE is doing, tearing our community apart," Diaz told reporters Saturday with the assistance of an interpreter.

    Donovan predicted nationwide, opponents of federal immigration policy will keep channeling their anger into political action.

    "Frankly, the change is going to come at the ballot box," Donovan said.

    An ICE spokesperson did not respond to necn's request for comment before our news deadline. If the agency does respond, this article will be updated.

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