Migrant Justice Joins a Coalition of Northern Border States to file a Joint FOIA about Border Patrol Engaging in Routine Law Enforcement Matters in VT

For Immediate Release

June 4, 2012

Contact: Brendan O'Neill, (802) 825-1609, brendan@migrantjustice.net

Ruth Lopez-McCarthy, Northern Borders Coalition, (773) 458-0459, ruth@northernbordercoalition.org

Just Weeks after ICE's "Secure Communities" gets imposed on Vermont, Migrant Justice Joins a Coalition of Northern Border States to file a Joint FOIA about Border Patrol Engaging in Routine Law Enforcement Matters in VT

June 4, 2012, Burlington, VT- Though Vermonters did not want the Obama Administration’s failed 'Secure Communities' immigration enforcement program, it was imposed on Vermont less than 2 weeks ago. After a big protest condemning the program and targeting Obama as the 'Deporter in Chief', Migrant Justice is now joining members of the Northern Border Coalition to address immigrant community concerns with collusion between Border Patrol and local law enforcement. This practice, according to Migrant Justice, "makes all our communities less safe."

Migrant Justice's Aaron Lackowski explains, "We joined a coalition of groups to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records related to the use of Border Patrol agents as interpreters for local law enforcement agencies. A separate FOIA request seeks the release of information about Border Patrol agents’ participation in 911 dispatch activities." The alliance of organizations that submitted these FOIA requests includes the American Immigration Council, the Alliance for Immigrants & Reform Michigan, Migrant Justice in VT, the New York Immigration Coalition, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and One America. The requesters are represented by the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center.

In a precedent-setting decision released publicly on May 31, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights office found that the U.S. Forest Service discriminated against Latinos in Washington State by using U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents as interpreters and as law-enforcement support in routine matters. Additionally, the USDA's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights also ordered the Forest Service to make significant policy changes at the national level to remedy its discriminatory policies and practices. This is the first legal ruling addressing the issue of whether the use of Border Patrol agents as language interpreters violates civil rights protections.

Although this incident occurred in Washington, immigrant communities across the northern border note a disturbing pattern of Border Patrol agents responding to local law enforcement requests to serve as “Spanish-language interpreters” for Latino community members stopped for traffic violations or calling 911. As Natalia Fajardo of Migrant Justice explains, "From Washington to Vermont, Border Patrol shouldn't be used to ‘translate’ for local law enforcement. Right here in Vermont, after Border Patrol translated for State Police and found that workers had dialed 911 by mistake, Border Patrol hauled away the workers. We are all less safe when the lines between Border Patrol and Police are blurred, whether in cases like this one or with S-COMM. Our communities will not pick up the phone and call 911, even to help a neighbor in trouble, when those calls lead to deportations."

The FOIA and related documents are available here:

Article in the NYT about profiling in WA: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/us/hard-by-canada-border-fears-of-crac...

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About Migrant Justice
Migrant Justice builds the voice, capacity and power of the migrant farmworker community in Vermont and engages allies to organize for social and economic justice and human rights. www.migrantjustice.net; info@migrantjustice.net

About The Northern Border Coalition

The Northern Borders Coalition is a union of organizations along the northern border working to stand up for civil and human rights together. The Coalition helps build shared strategies amongst our members to address new border challenges and collaborates with our partners in the Southwest to share best practices. http://michiganimmigrationreform.org/NorthernBorders/about.html