Suit says Vermont continuing to feed immigrant info to feds

January 2, 2019

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by an immigrant rights group says the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has forwarded information about immigrant farm workers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to the arrest and deportation of some of those individuals.

The suit, filed in November by the group Migrant Justice and some of its members with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, says some immigrant farm workers were targeted for deportation after they obtained Vermont drivers’ licenses, Vermont Public Radio reported .

The lawsuit also says Migrant Justice leaders were targeted by federal immigration authorities.

Migrant Justice leader Enrique Balcazar now faces deportation after his arrest by ICE in March 2017. He said records show he was flagged by a DMV worker in emails to ICE.

In the past two years, 40 people associated with his organization have been arrested by federal immigration authorities.

“Many of them have since been deported, and in nine of these cases, we have clear evidence that these arrests were retaliatory, targeting people because of their involvement in Migrant Justice,” Balcazar said.

The suit, filed in November, cites documents received through Vermont’s access to records law, that show DMV officials forwarded to ICE names, photos, car registrations and other information on immigrants. It also says ICE used electronic surveillance and an undercover informant to track and ultimately detain and deport Migrant Justice members.

The suit cited an email in which a state worker passed along “south of the border names.” It also cited an email in which an ICE worker said a DMV employee should be recognized as an honorary agent.

Officials from the Vermont DMV and ICE declined to comment on the lawsuit. Republican Gov. Phil Scott says his office is investigating.

Vermont law allows people living in the U.S. without legal permission to obtain a drivers’ license.

The ACLU’s Lia Ernst says routine information sharing between the Vermont DMV and ICE was supposed to stop under a separate 2016 legal settlement, but it continued.

She said the DMV has been sharing photos, application materials, and has even gone so far as to advise ICE when certain people are coming in for appointments.


Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net

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