Homeland Security secretary, ICE agents, Vermont DMV commissioner sued over immigration enforcement

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Civil and immigrant rights groups on Wednesday announced they are suing the Homeland Security secretary, multiple customs agents and Vermont’s DMV commissioner over immigration enforcement practices in Vermont.

Even as President Donald Trump deployed U.S. military units along the U.S.-Mexico border to repel a caravan of South American migrants marching north, pro-illegal-immigration protesters in the Queen City braved the cold and wind downtown to show support for a local lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal District Court.

Lou Varricchio

Immigrant and civil rights activists braved the cold and wind Wednesday to show their support for a lawsuit filed at U.S. Federal District Court in downtown Burlington.

Vermont-based groups represented in the lawsuit are Migrant Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP.

Starting at City Hall around noon, approximately 50 protesters marched up Church Street Marketplace to the federal court house on Elmwood Avenue.

According to a news release by ACLU-Vermont, the lawsuit alleges that “the Vermont DMV assisted ICE and DHS in targeting Migrant Justice leaders after the organization worked to pass Vermont’s Driver Privilege Card (DPC) law in 2013, allowing state residents to obtain driving privileges regardless of immigration status.”

The groups say that when undocumented immigrants began applying for driver’s privilege cards, the DMV sent that information on to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which then “compiled dossiers on Migrant Justice leaders, including their social media pages and media appearances.”

They further allege that the Vermont DMV “shared the plaintiffs’ information with ICE for discriminatory purposes, out of racial and anti-immigrant animus.”

Out in the street, marchers shouted phrases in Spanish, including, “¡Justica!” (justice), “¡Libertad!” (freedom), “Abajo con deportatio” (Down with deportation), “Odio Donald Trump” (I hate Donald Trump), “Deja de Trump” (Stop Trump), “Derejos humanos” (Human rights), and “¡Sin fronteras!” (No borders!). Some also chanted in English, “Stop the fear, immigrants are welcomed here.”

Some banners carried by protesters read  “Black Lives Matter” and “No Borders.”

In front of the federal building, protesters gathered for a news conference and rally led by activists from the bed of a Toyota pickup truck. Vermont activist Enrique Balcazar, one of the plaintiffs mentioned in the lawsuit, spoke to the marchers.

Lou Varricchio

Vermont dairy worker and activist Enrique Balcazar, one of the plaintiffs named in the Migrant Justice lawsuit against ICE and the Vermont DMV.

“We come to the U.S. from countries with histories of political repression and we thought that here our freedom of speech would be protected as we stood up to defend our rights,” he said. “It is clear that ICE is trying to silence immigrant voices in Vermont.”

The 41-page-long federal lawsuit challenges the immigration practices of the U.S. and state of Vermont and alleges profiling along with mistreatment and surveillance of migrant farm workers and activists.

According to the lawsuit, 20 members of the organization Migrant Justice were arrested and subsequently detained by ICE agents.

“ICE has infiltrated Migrant Justice’s private meetings; targeted, surveilled, and engaged in disinformation campaigns to sow distrust among its members; and arrested and/or detained no fewer than 20 active Migrant Justice members,” the lawsuit read.

Plaintiffs named in the case include Jose Victor Garcia Diaz, a Vermont dairy worker and activist, and Vermont Migrant Justice activists Miguel Aleudia Gamas, Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanches, and Zully Palacios Rodreiguez, a woman.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are the United States, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, as well as ICE employees Ronald Vitiello and Matthew Albence. The sole Vermont DMV defendant named in the lawsuit is department Commissioner Wanda Minoli.

The lawsuit sets out to thwart ICE’s ability to deport migrant workers. Noted in the complaint is an arrest which took place Sept. 13, 2011, during the Obama administration. Weeks earlier, on Aug. 18, Migrant Justice member Danilo Lopez delivered a petition to the office of then Gov. Peter Shumlin “to publicly ‘say no’ to Secure Communities (an ICE program) because it ‘threatens our security, promotes racial discrimination,’ and lacks transparency.”

The suit outlines the arrest of Lopez on Sept. 13, in which Vermont State Police stopped a car for speeding and found Lopez as a passenger. Although he was not the driver, state police handed Lopez over to U.S. Border Patrol.”

Following the arrest, Migrant Justice staged a protest against for Lopez’s detention. The undocumented immigrant was released after requests were made by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, along with Rep. Peter Welch.

The lawsuit mentions other similar incidents involving Migrant Justice workers.

On April 21, 2016, Migrant Justice reported that Garcia Diaz, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, was arrested in Stowe.

Diaz was arrested by ICE agents in the parking lot while attending an entertainment event. The lawsuit identifies an internal ICE report identifying Diaz as a “prominent and public member of the immigrant advocacy group Migrant Justice.”

Migrant Justice’s Will Lambeck, speaking at the news conference and rally on Wednesday, said an informant was placed inside his group in Vermont.

Lou Varricchio

ACLU attorney Lia Ernst: “To be clear, this suppression of free political speech violates bedrock, fundamental constitutional law. … We will not stand for it.”

“That … person was in fact working with ICE and in frequent communication with her handler at ICE regarding Migrant Justice’s activities and its membership,” Lambeck told the audience.

“Beginning in at least 2014, ICE has targeted, surveilled, and spread disinformation about Migrant Justice, its staff, and its leaders,” Lambeck said, echoing the lawsuit text. The arrests apparently did not follow ICE’s rules of enforcement, according to Migrant Justice.

ACLU-Vermont staff attorney and public advocate Lia Ernst also addressed the marchers.

“Th experiences of immigrants in Vermont — including our plaintiffs in this case as well as internal records we’ve received — demonstrates, without a doubt, that the state and federal governments have undertaken to retaliate against outspoken critics and activists in the migrant community. To be clear, this suppression of free political speech violates bedrock, fundamental constitutional law and we will not stand for it,” she said.

Speakers did not specify the past or current immigration status of the plaintiffs. However, Vermont has since passed a law in March 2017 that prohibits state and local officials from helping ICE enforce U.S. immigration laws.

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Image courtesy of Lou Varricchio/TNR

17 thoughts on “Homeland Security secretary, ICE agents, Vermont DMV commissioner sued over immigration enforcement

  1. It’s tedious to do this but for clarity:
    alien adj.: relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government; foreign.
    n.: a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country
    immigrant n. : a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence
    citizen n.: an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman. :a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it
    naturalize v.t.: to confer the rights of a national on; especially : to admit to citizenship

    Keeping the above in mind, any aliens who attempt or gain entry to a nation other than their own, without following the laws of that nation pertaining to such entry, are by definition ILLEGAL ALIENS. They are NOT “ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS”. We need to call them by their real name– and deal with them as such.

    The non-citizen voting rights recently granted by feel good legislation have opened Pandora’s Box yet again. Aliens, legal and illegal, as “non-citizen” residents have been granted the POWER to influence local politics–and all its ramifications– with their votes. How long until those legislated rights are extended to the state elections that will affect the rest of us CITIZENS?

    This puppy should have been culled, along with the bitch that whelped it.

    • Agreed,I refuse to use the language of the Left,however it is working as even the supposed conservatives are adapting it,tell a lie often enough and it becomes accepted fact.

      • Speaking of the Language of the Left I came across a article this morning on the very topic.

        The Left’s Linguistic War

        Posted on November 17, 2018 by Newt Gingrich

        “One of the key lessons of the 2018 elections is that the Left is waging – and winning – a linguistic war. The Left claims and occupies more and more linguistic ground with each new fight.”

        “Defense of the Founding Fathers becomes defense of white, racist, slaveowners.
        Defense of American identity becomes an act of white male domination.
        Racism is so commonly used by left-wing news media and politicians to describe conservative positions that one poll shows that 61 percent of Democrats believe Republicans are racist/bigoted/sexist (a study of CNN’s and MSNBC’s use of the word racist to describe conservative and Republican positions would be breathtaking).”

        “Wanting to obey the law in counting votes becomes an effort to suppress votes and disenfranchise poor people, minorities, and immigrants.”


  2. SEND THEM ALL BACK WHERE THEY CAME FROM. They supposedly came here to work, not to protest our system. If they are here illegally, then they have no rights. If you break the law, you are arrested so if you are here illegally, you should be arrested and deported. You shouldn’t be able to obtain a drivers license, get free medical services or anything else a citizen receives. I understand why the liberals back them for they want their votes and that’s all you need in this State is a drivers license to register to vote..
    What a joke this State is becoming. I’m ashamed to say I’m a Vermonter.

  3. Prosecute all those bringing the lawsuit. They are abetting the violation of the law (just as Scott and all the VT Dem/Prog politicians are also doing – go after them too).

  4. I agree on a counter suit. Hit them where it hurts… in the wallet. As noted by many above, these are illegal trespassers in the U.S.. They are law breakers and in a land of rule of law this is not acceptable. I know of no one who is here on a visa or green card being deported.

    None of these protesters would leave their doors unlocked and allow anyone to come in and camp out in their home/apartment. Our country is our home and we need solid effective borders to keep out anyone who is unwilling to abide by our laws.

    As we have seen on the news. The so called migrant march from Hondurans and Guatemala are carrying their home flags, flags of countries they are supposedly fleeing from due to persecution. Why aren’t they carrying American flags?

    Note that there were “50” protesters in BTV. Not very representative of 620,000+ Vermonters.

    This is a political gambit by the left to lure impressionable and desperate people into their ranks as an investment in gaining future voters. We have communities already allowing illegal immigrants the ability to vote in local elections. This is a slap in the face to hard working taxpayers who ultimately have to pay for costs passed in an election.

    • Then let’s do something about it. When I said I was ‘all-in’, I meant financially as well. Time to hurt them in the wallet. How do we get this going?

      • Create Organization
        Search/Find Attorney
        Plan of Action

        Simple. Now, where is our General Woundwort?

        • Agreed we need Woundwort. But what we’re all upset about here are the signs and symptoms of a disease. Namely liberalism. We need to eradicate that disease or at a minimum develop a counter punch to make it seem like some opposition is alive. So, in all the warrens of VT, where we do we find Woundwort?

  5. Vermont is a testing ground for all this illegal stuff to see how much they can get away with. The streched rubber band is about at the breaking point and when it breaks, common sense and common people will take back the state. Too many Libs moved in and this is what you got. What’s the next state(s) that will be the target? I don’t see any of them wanting to go to Socialist Venezuela to “solve” their problems.

    Take Back Vermont!!!!

  6. Undocumented immigrants used to be referred to as illegal immigrants, which is what they are. ILLEGAL.
    I, and I think no one else, have a problem with legal immigration to the US or Vermont for that matter.

    Green card and visa holders, as pointed out above, do not get deported.

    So what is the problem? The problem is that these bleeding hearts are protecting ILLEGALS.

  7. Immigrants don’t get deported unless they’re convicted of a crime. The Green Card protects migrant workers from being deported. Visa holders don’t get deported. The people whom ICE arrests are illegal aliens, foreign nationals, citizens of another country who are here in the United States illegally. They are not migrant workers because they cannot work here without essential documentation. If your neighbor’s car isn’t running well, should he fix it – or expect you make yours available to him at your expense?

  8. Illegal means Illegal ……………………. Enough Said !!

    These bleeding heart groups should be held accountable for supporting these
    criminals, Legal Immigration means your willing to follow the law of the land and
    should be allowed in our Country with all its benefits !!

  9. I’m all in for a counter-suit against these illegal alien supporting groups. Let’s get organized and teach them some lessons about U.S. law.

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