Vermont Sheriff on collaboration with deportation agents: “We don’t need further restrictions on what we’re already doing”

February 7th is a crucial day in Migrant Justice’s “No Polimigra” campaign to stop the collaboration between local police and federal deportation agents. The Vermont Criminal Justice Council – the body responsible for police training, policies and regulation – will review recommendations to strengthen the state’s model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. Migrant Justice has fought for years to close Trump-era loopholes in the policy that allow for continued complicity of Vermont police in the detention and deportation of immigrants: now is the time to make your voice heard!

Send a message to the Criminal Justice Council and urge them to strengthen policy and get the “Polimigra” out of Vermont! Email with your message for the Council.

Migrant Justice leaders rally against collaboration between state agencies and federal deportation agencies in front of the federal building in Burlington, VT

Despite the policies in place, Vermont police continue to target immigrant Vermonters and turn them over to ICE and Border Patrol for deportation. This horrific practice was highlighted in recent reporting from the Community News Service and published in news outlets around the state. Essex County Sheriff Trevor Colby strongly opposes our efforts to strengthen policy

“We don’t need further restrictions on what we’re already doing.... It’s not like we’re spending all this energy focusing on people that are here illegally,” said Colby, estimating his department had relayed about 20 cases to immigration authorities in the last year, not a particularly high figure in his mind.

The article goes on to characterize Sheriff Colby’s resistance to removing the Trump-era loopholes, along with his brazen admission of regular collaboration with deportation agencies:

He emphasized that his priority is to keep residents within his jurisdiction safe, and people in his relatively remote part of the state get shaken up when they see unfamiliar folks. Up there, he said, everyone basically knows everyone. Colby said he would likely call immigration authorities after a traffic stop if he thought the people in the car were undocumented.

Legislators and immigrant leaders hold a No Polimigra press conference at the Vermont State House 

For over a decade, immigrant farmworkers have led the charge to get Vermont police out of the business of deportations. This work hit its high-water mark in 2016, when Migrant Justice and allies succeeded in implementing a statewide model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP) with robust protections for immigrant rights. The next year, however, with threats from the incoming Trump Administration to defund so-called “sanctuary states,” Vermont policy-makers caved and quickly added loopholes that allow police to communicate with ICE and Border Patrol agents. Since the policy was watered down, police in the state have exploited these loopholes to turn immigrants over to the feds for detention and deportation.

Migrant Justice has pushed back, organizing to remove the loopholes from the model FIPP while at the same time pressing local departments to go above and beyond the model to enhance their own policies. Many communities have responded and adopted Migrant Justice’s recommendations: to date, nine jurisdictions – including the largest municipal police departments in the state – have implemented the enhanced FIPP.

Community members rally at the Burlington City Hall before the passage of the enhanced Fair and Impartial Policing Policy in 2020. Burlington Police Department is one of nine jurisdictions in Vermont with the improved policy in place.

On the state level, immigrants have spent the last years providing testimony on the need to strengthen the model FIPP. After a thorough review, the Criminal Justice Council’s “Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee” has recommended Migrant Justice’s policy changes!

These recommendations now go to the full Criminal Justice Council, which meets on February 7th to debate – and potentially vote on – their subcommittee’s recommendations. They need to hear from Vermonters that we don’t want our police to be in the business of deportations!

Email the Criminal Justice Council expressing your support for a stronger Fair and Impartial Policing Policy. Send a message to before the meeting!

p.s. Are you free on 2/7 at 10am? Log on to the Criminal Justice Council’s zoom meeting to watch the debate and make your voice heard