Migrant Farm Worker Organizing Campaign Results in New and Improved State Police Policy

Farm Workers Welcome New Policy as Step in the Right Direction

****************************For Immediate Release******************************

Natalia Fajardo, VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project, 802.497.7027/802-658-6770
Brendan O'Neill, VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project, 802.825.1609/802-658-6770

Friday, November 5- Burlington, VT-- Farm Worker leaders from the VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project (VTMFSP) welcome Governor Shumlin Administration's new Bias-Free-Policing-Policy as a significant improvement and step in the right direction. At the same time, the policy change demonstrates that though migrant farm workers live on the margins of our communities in Vermont, they are building and organizing a voice for the first time, and this led to a concrete policy change.

Eliazar Martinez, one of 5 farm workers who met with Governor Shumlin and his legal counsel Beth Robinson just weeks ago to present community concerns about Vermont State Policing practices and policy, commented, "We are very pleased that the new policy directs the State Police to not use agency resources, equipment, or personnel for immigration enforcement of otherwise law abiding community members. We thank the Governor for hearing our voices and we look forward to continued dialogue to create a more safe and just Vermont for all."

Farm workers recently joined the struggle for biased-free policing, particularly after Danilo Lopez, a VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project leader (VTMFSP), was detained by VT State Police with his cousin Antonio, in a routine traffic stop as passengers in a vehicle on September 13th. Lopez contacted the organization during the stop, setting off a chain of calls and rapid responses and eventually leading to the arrests of 3 Vermonters who non-violently blocked a Border Patrol Vehicle. Later that same day, the farmworkers were released and the Governor called for an investigation into the incident. In the weeks following the incident the VTMFSP has been organizing a statewide speaking tour, with Danilo as the featured speaker, to raise awareness and generate support to stop police from acting as immigration agents.

Now, with a new and improved policy in place farm workers are hopeful that there will be even more clarity so that what happened to Danilo and Antonio will not happen again. Danilo Lopez commented, "The reality is that what happened to me and Antonio and what happened up on Chris Wagner's farm in Franklin County, who was was handcuffed and had his employees deported after a 911 call, shouldn't have happened. We are disappointed the State Police defended these actions in both cases, and we know of others that occur in silence. However, today we are hopeful that this new policy and dialogue with both the Governor and the State Police will challenge a 'show me your papers' policing culture that relies on racial profiling and is spreading throughout the country particularly as the federal government forces police to act as immigration agents through policies like (in)Secure Communities. "

Natalia Fajardo of VTMFSP commented, "Though the new State Policing Policy represents a big step forward, we do have some concerns. The policy has a number of exceptions to when police can ask about immigration status and engage in immigration enforcement. These exceptions might still leave room for police to defend their immigration enforcement actions in both Danilo Lopez's and Chris Wagner's cases. We will be talking with State Police about these concerns in the coming weeks and welcome the opportunity to do so."

VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project/Justicia Migrante.
Danielle Lopez, Over Lopez, Javier Franco Duran, Eliazar Rodriguez, Bernardino Hernandez, Leonel Alfonzo Moreno, Natalia Fajardo, Brendan O'Neill, Monica Collins, Martha Caswell. 802-658-6770; vtmfsp@gmail.com

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