“You’re f–ing here illegally and you’re worried about being safe?”

The Vermont Criminal Justice Council met on the morning of February 7th to review the state’s “Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.” Several days before the meeting, Migrant Justice asked supporters to send their comments to the state policy-makers – and people responded in droves! As the Council met on the morning of February 7th, members received a 72-page packet of emails urging them to remove Trump-era loopholes and protect immigrant rights in Vermont.

The Criminal Justice Council heard from numerous Migrant Justice members about their fear of collaboration between local law enforcement officials and federal deportation agents, known in Spanish as the “Polimigra.” During one farmworker’s testimony, a Council member was caught on a hot mic uttering a vile and racist comment.

Mike Major, a Deputy at the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Office, represented the Vermont Police Association on the Council. As one Migrant Justice member spoke about wanting to feel safe going to the doctor, Deputy Major could be heard saying “You’re fucking here illegally and you’re worried about being safe? Yeah, okay.”

Vermont residents: contact your state legislators and ask them to support a stronger Fair and Impartial Policing policy!

The Chittenden Sheriff’s Office was at the center of one of the most high-profile Polimigra incidents in Vermont in recent years. In 2019, farmworker Luis “Chiri” Ulloa and his cousin were going on a double date with their girlfriends to a local Applebee’s when they were stopped for speeding by one of Major’s fellow deputies. The deputy called Border Patrol and held the car on the side of the road for nearly two hours to allow federal agents to arrive. Luis was arrested by Border Patrol and detained for months before being deported.

Migrant Justice members protest outside the Chittenden County Sheriff's Office in 2019 following a Deputy's involvement in the Border Patrol arrest of a farmworker

The Sheriff’s Office justified their actions by pointing to the loopholes in the state’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. Following public outcry, the office released a report defending their actions and seeking to sweep the abuse under the rug. Their “investigation” concluded that the deputy had cause to call Border Patrol based on his suspicion of “human smuggling.” The evidence? That Luis and another passenger were “averting their gazes” from the deputy.

With the support of Migrant Justice, Luis filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. The Sheriff settled the claim last year with a financial payout to Luis of $25,000. Yet as Deputy Major’s comments today make clear, the bias that leads to police collaboration with deportation agencies remains present. And the loopholes in the current policy allow officers to get away with it.

During today’s meeting, the Criminal Justice Council put off their vote on recommendations to strengthen Vermont’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. The Council believes that more time is needed to consider objections from the police – despite the fact that the policy review has been underway since 2019. In spite of the latest delay, Migrant Justice isn’t going anywhere.

After the Criminal Justice Council meeting, we released the following statement:

“The public comments from the Vermont Police Association in today’s meeting were a clear and painful reflection of the racism that still exists in this state. How can any immigrant in Vermont hear those words and not fear that the police will turn them over to ICE or Border Patrol if given the chance? This shows us why Vermont needs a stronger Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. The state must act now to remove Trump-era loopholes and truly protect immigrant rights.”

Stand with immigrants and call on your legislators to urge the Criminal Justice Council to act without further delay!