As Alabama Criminalizes Immigrant Communities Vermonters Work for a Humane and Just Way Forward on Immigration Matters.
Posted Sat, 10/15/2011 - 6:22am
VT Farm Workers Met With Governor on Friday Seeking to Improve Bias-Free-Policing Policies and Stop Vermont Police From Acting as Immigration Agents
Friday, October 14- Montpelier, VT-- A group of 5 of Vermont's 1500 migrant farm workers, that sustain Vermont's iconic dairy industry and landscapes, met wit the Governor on Friday to seek his support to improve the State's policing practices. Danilo Lopez, of the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project (VTMFSP), spoke at a press conference and exchanged brief words with Governor Shumlin back in August seeking his support to make sure that Vermont not go in the direction of Arizona on immigration issues. Just 3 weeks later this hit home for Danilo after State Police detained Lopez and his cousin Antonio Meza-Sandoval, in a routine traffic stop but they were only passengers in the vehicle. Lopez explains, "After just a few seconds of talking with the driver, who was a white Vermonter, he turned and looked at us and soon asked if we were in the country legally." Lopez, a leader with the VTMFSP contacted the organization and this set off a chain of urgent calls and rapid response eventually leading to the farm workers release from Border Patrol later that evening and the Governor calling for an investigation into the incident.
"We had already planned on meeting with the Governor about Bias-Free-Policing and to stop ICE's (in)Secure Communities from coming to Vermont before the State Police chose to act as immigration agents, detain me and Antonio, and call Border Patrol. Now, we have a lot more to talk about." The State Police released their findings on Wednesday from their internal investigation into the traffic stop and claim that the Trooper acted in accordance with State Police Policy. Today, however farm workers presented a new video made by the VTMFSP, and watched it with the Governor and his top legal counsel Beth Robinson that shows that September 13, 2011 was not an isolated incident and suggests a need to improve, strengthen, and clarify existing bias-free policing policies and implementation.
(view it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzdvTsCoU9Q)
Dairy Worker Javier Franco Duran, who participated in Friday's meeting commented, "The meeting was good. We made our case to stop police from acting as immigration agents. He listened, they said they are revisiting their policy but made no concrete promises." The letter to the Governor that the farm workers hand-delivered and discussed on Friday and related links to supporting materials are below:
Honorable Peter Shumlin, Governor
State of Vermont
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, VT 05609
October 14, 2011
Dear Governor Shumlin,
We are grateful and honored for the opportunity to meet with you in person today. The timing and significance of this first historic visit of Vermont farm workers to meet with you is not lost on us as we watch our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends get displaced from schools, have their water cut off, and hide in fear of showing their faces in public in Alabama. While the Governor of Alabama, models an inhumane, unjust and discriminatory reaction to the broken federal immigration system we, here in Vermont, have an opportunity and obligation for a completely different way forward. At key moments in history Vermont has broken with the institutionalized discrimination of the status quo based on the principals of freedom, respect and human rights for all those living and working in our great state.
Will Vermont embrace inclusivity, diversity, inter-dependence and the rights for all or will it build bigger walls between us that foster misunderstanding, exclusion, discrimination, and persecution? We are profoundly disappointed with the State Police's investigation into their biased-policing practices on September 13 that resulted in the detention of Danilo Lopez and Antonio-Meza Sandoval. We are hopeful that you will oversee your own investigation into this and other incidents we share today. At the same time we acknowledge the need for State Troopers to have even more clarity, direction, and guidelines so that we stop biased-policing practices in Vermont and we seek to work with you to that end.
We sit here with you today, with great humility and respect, representing the good folks that work day and night to put the milk and cheese on the table, and ask that you stand up for the rights of all Vermont's communities by:
• Viewing this short video documenting incidents of biased-policing practices in Vermont:
• Strengthening, clarifying and implementing the enclosed recommended changes to the State
Police's Bias-Free Policing Policies:
* Reading this letter from leaders of Vermont's communities of color expressing community concerns about the
September 13th biased-policing practices:
• Direct a letter to President Obama, on behalf of Danilo Lopez and Antonio Meza-Sandoval,
requesting that ICE use its powers of 'Prosecutorial Discretion' to stop their
deportation and removal proceedings because their civil rights were violated by
Vermont's State Police:
• Reading this petition, signed by 608 Vermonters, asking you to:
1) Pledge to keep Vermont safe by keeping out ICE's “Secure Communities”;
2) Support and promote Bias-Free Policing Policies throughout Vermont
Again, we are deeply grateful for you taking the time to meet with us today and for your support for farm workers, farmers, and Vermont's communities of color.
Justicia Migrante/VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project
Danilo Lopez, Over Lopez, Javier Franco Duran, Eliazar Rodriguez, Bernardino Hernandez, Leonel Alfonzo Moreno, Natalia Fajardo, Brendan O'Neill, Monica Collins, Martha Caswell