"The only wall we should be building...

...is the wall between the police and Trump’s deportation machine.”

Vermonters who support immigrant rights are making their voices heard. Last week, a dozen towns across the state voted to approve sanctuary resolutions declaring their solidarity with immigrants and refugees. And politicians are paying attention.

Just yesterday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted preliminary approval of Governor Scott’s immigration bill (S.79), legislation already unanimously passed by the Senate. Though backed by a worthy sentiment, the bill is more symbol than substance. It focuses on potential actions that the Trump administration could take but does nothing to stop Vermont police practices of colluding with federal authorities to deport immigrants living and working in the state.

(Migrant Justice testifying for Fair and Impartial Policing in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Photo Credit: Kesha Ram)

Meanwhile, Migrant Justice continues to push for full implementation of the state’s Fair and Impartial Policing law, a policy that farmworkers and others have fought for and won through years of struggle. If fully implemented and rigorously enforced, this policy would ensure that Vermont law enforcement isn’t made a party to Trump’s agenda of mass deportation. 

Migrant Justice members and allies have spoken for Fair and Impartial Policing at community forums and in meetings with police chiefs across the state. Immigrant workers won a seat at the table on the Attorney General’s Immigration Task Force, which produced a report last week backing cities and towns that choose not to aid in federal immigration enforcement. And we have testified at the State House, urging the legislature to once again compel departments to implement the policy.

At a recent hearing, dairy worker David Diaz, a member of Migrant Justice’s Farmworker Coordinating Committee, told legislators:

We want Vermont to be a state that welcomes immigrants, where we don’t live in fear. We want Vermont to be different, where we can work freely without being afraid to go to the store, where families won’t be scared to bring their children to school. We ask that as legislators of this state, that you support us in our struggle, because we can’t do it alone. This is how we won the initial Fair and Impartial Policing law. But there are many departments that haven’t implemented the full policy. So we will fight for a new law to make sure police respect our rights and don’t discriminate against us.

The pressure is working, and at last count, over 30 police and sheriff’s departments around the state had fully implemented Fair and Impartial Policing policies. Yet the detention and deportation of immigrants in Vermont continues. Two days before David testified at the State House, a member of his family was arrested by immigration agents outside his home.

This is why Migrant Justice supports the Racial Justice Reform bill (H.492), legislation that would mandate full statewide implementation of the Fair and Impartial Policing policy. Drafted by our friends at Justice for All and supported by a large coalition of groups, the bill would also create a Racial Justice Oversight Board to promote reform throughout state government. The criminalization of immigrants in Vermont is linked to the oppression faced by all people of color in the state. The Racial Justice Reform bill will address institutionalized racism throughout Vermont.

You can help pass the Racial Justice Reform bill, but we need to act fast!  Please take these actions this week!

  1. Sign the petition calling for the adoption of the Racial Justice Reform Bill  Your signature alerts all members of the legislature.
  2. Call the State House at 802-828-2228 and leave a message for your legislative delegation and/or the House Judiciary expressing your support for H492 and S.116.
  3. Send a message to the Judiciary Committee of each chamber expressing your support. House Judiciary (H.492) – vermont-house-judiciary@googlegroups.com; Senate Judiciary (S.116) – vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com
  4. Come to the the Racial Justice Now Rally on Thursday, March 16th at 6:00pm on the Statehouse steps (and share the event if you’re on facebook!)
  5. Organize your community to meet with your police chief or sheriff´s department and push for strong separation between local law enforcement and Trump´s deportation machine. Contact us to find out whether your department has fully implemented the Fair and Impartial Policing policy.

As David said in his recent State House testimony:

We need a law for those of us who work twelve, thirteen, sometimes fifteen hours a day, then are shut up in our homes, without being able to leave -- because of fear. I am afraid that if I leave my house, I won’t be able to come back to my family. The President wants to build a wall to keep us out. But as immigrants, we aren’t stopping our struggle. We aren’t leaving. We’re staying right here. We will show our faces and continue fighting for our rights. And if he wants to build a wall, he’s going to come up against our wall of resistance.