Activists for immigrants' rights filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in Burlington, Vermont, against several defendants, including the U.S. Homeland Security secretary.
After a march through the streets of Burlington, activists from the group Migrant Justice and many allies from other organizations called for greater protections for immigrants, regardless of legal status.
When the march arrived at the federal courthouse, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging Vermont's Department of Motor Vehicles gave personal information to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security about members of the state's undocumented farmworker community.
That community's labor is critical to Vermont's famous dairy industry.
Advocates with Migrant Justice, who are outspoken on a host of immigration issues, say they were retaliated against for their activism, claiming ICE used that DMV info to track down undocumented community leaders and make arrests.
"As we stand up and fight for our rights, we are hunted down and targeted by ICE," Migrant Justice activist Enrique Balcazar said through an interpreter at a rally outside the federal building.
Migrant Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU of Vermont, and other plaintiffs claim the federal government is targeting activists nationwide.
Their suit calls on Vermont's DMV to stop sharing info with the Feds, and for ICE to stop detaining advocates for immigrants, arguing they have a Constitutional right to rally and speak up for the farmworker community without fear.
"ICE is a rogue agency who needs to be restrained, and eventually abolished," said Angelo Guisado, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Christina Nolan, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont, declined to comment Wednesday about the demonstration taking place outside the federal building.
However, the man who appointed Nolan before her unanimous U.S. Senate confirmation, President Donald Trump, has regularly spoken about his enthusiastic support for ICE.
"We will never surrender our nation," President Trump said in August at an event applauding the work of federal agents. "We will not stand for the vile smears, the hateful attacks, and the vicious assaults on the courageous men and women of ICE and Border Patrol and law enforcement."
A spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, told necn the governor's office is still reviewing the lawsuit and its claims about the DMV.
Scott's office said the governor's expectation is that the state follow human rights standards and fair and impartial policing practices along with state and federal laws.
ICE told the Associated Press it could not comment on pending litigation.