Migrant Justice hit the road last week, traveling from coast to coast, in response to the fair food movement’s growing hunger for farmworkers' rights. From Stanford University to Vermont’s huge annual Northeast Organic Farmer Association conference the Milk with Dignity (MD) Program was lifted up as an innovative and ready to go 21st century worker-led solution to advance farmworker’s human rights in dairy supply chains.
Migrant Justice is hitting the road this week, traveling from coast to coast, connecting with a rapidly growing fair food movement hungry for the expansion of worker-led solutions to secure human rights in the food system. From Stanford University to the huge annual gathering of the Northeast Organic Farmer Association (NOFA) Vermont conference, Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Program will be showcased over the next couple days as an effective response and solution to the growing realization that any sustainable food system must be built on a firm foundation of farmworkers’ human rights
Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos. Migrant Justice leader Enrique Balcazar led a crowd of nearly 1,000 in Burlington on Tuesday night in chanting this refrain. "We are here, and we're not leaving."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports, some Vermont agriculture officials are meeting to discuss how to replace deported dairy workers, including by "training inmates to do the work." To this we say: Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos.
Donald Trump's executive orders last week shook us hard but did not break our resolve. We stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers targeted by Trump's ban, because we won´t be fooled by white nationalism masquerading as national security. We stand with communities on the Southern border fighting the wall, because we know that the only thing a wall will bring is more death on the border, as the journey north for those fleeing poverty and violence becomes more perilous still. And we stand against the criminalization and deportation of our community, because we know that migration is a human right, and you can't trump human rights. Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos.
Migrant Justice's groundbreaking organizing for human rights and food justice made headlines time and time again throughout the year. Both locally and nationally, Vermont immigrant farmworkers shaped the story on worker's rights, deportations, the dairy industry, the election, and sanctuary cities, to name just a few of the issues covered in 2016. Read more for a selection of headlines that tell the story of Migrant Justice in 2016.
This essay from Migrant Justice appeared as an op-ed in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and as an opinions column in the VT Digger
Along with many Vermonters, immigrant farmworkers in the Green Mountain state watched with increasing despair on election night, as precincts reported their votes and the sea of red swept westward across the country. Into the early hours of the morning, in trailers scattered throughout Vermont’s iconic working landscapes, immigrant farmworkers came to grips with the election’s results, a sensation no doubt familiar to many of their blue state neighbors. Yet for the state´s estimated 1,500 immigrant dairy workers, this sense of dread was far weightier.
The Migrant Justice community is hopeful that Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger follows through on his promise to make Burlington a Sanctuary City by taking the first step, which is for the Burlington Police Department to fully adopt all elements of the new state-wide Fair and Impartial Policing policy that Migrant Justice helped create. Any sanctuary city effort must be firmly rooted in a legal framework that defines a policy of no collaboration between local agencies and immigration enforcement efforts. We encourage our allies across the state of Vermont to build a corridor of cities and towns across Vermont that adopt all elements of the state-wide Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.
As Migrant Justice leader Roger Balcazar told News Channel 5 in a recent interview:
"Our work will be to continue our struggle for our rights, the one that we have been doing for so many years."
Burlington, VT. Leaders in Vermont’s immigrant farmworker community shared reactions today on yesterday’s election of Donald Trump.
In the face of the unprecedented division, fear, and hatred surrounding the Trump election, Migrant Justiceleaders, like Enrique Balcazar, are calling for unity and solidarity:
Said Enrique Balcazar, former dairy worker and organizer with Migrant Justice: “Our community has always suffered from oppression for the simple act of daring to survive, and we have always fought back. Trump’s election as President makes this oppression more evident than ever. We are all affected when one community is attacked and criminalized. It’s time for us all to come together to confront this new reality, united against fear.”
Said David Diaz, dairy worker and member of Migrant Justice’s Farmworker Coordinating Committee: “Now more than ever we must unite in the struggle for justice. If Trump carries out his election promises, it would forever change the United States. As a community we have achieved great things. Together we can fight to achieve much more.”
Vermont's #Not1More Movement Secures Another Release of VT Human Rights Leader from ICE Custody
ICE Drops Bail After Outpouring of Community Support
10/14/16 Burlington, VT--Vermont human rights leader Miguel Alcudia received a warm welcome by a group of friends last night after being released from ICE custody after spending three weeks in prison. In a rare exercise of discretion, ICE dropped Alcudia’s $21,000 bail altogether drawing upon its’ administrative powers to release immigration detainees like Alcudia who are not considered “priority” for deportation adding to questions of why Alcudia was detained in the first place. The release comes after a surge of immigrant detentions in Vermont in recent months and on the heels of broad region-wide support calling for the release of Alcudia including over 2 dozen letters of support from friends and community leaders, a series of rallies and a vibrant 150 person march to the Federal Building in Burlington VT, an action at the St. Albans’s ICE office and nearly 1500 online petition signatures calling for Alcudia’s immediate release.
Miguel was reunited with friends late last night and remarked:
"I am happy to be free again and to take up again our struggle for human rights...Just because we don’t have the right papers they make us endure moments of anguish and depression enclosed in the 4 walls of our cell. I met someone inside who tried to take his life for the difficulty these moments present to us. Since the first moment I was detained I felt the support that I was going to have not just from my community but also from allies and organizations that understand our struggle in this state. I felt that the struggle is not in vain. I could feel the power of our community that pushed and pressured ICE to free me.”
In an explosive new report, investigative journalists at VTDigger have published an exposé of routine and casual collusion between Vermont DMV employees and federal immigration agents to target, arrest, and deport DMV customers. The report draws from over 50 pages of emails obtained by Migrant Justice in a public records request that show rampant discrimination against immigrants in the months following the 2014 implementation of a state law allowing undocumented drivers access to a license.
Excerpts from emails between DMV employees, and between DMV and ICE employees, include:
“I can send you a list of the names if you like but they are all 'South of the Border' names”
“I’ve emailed the docs to Border Patrol and they will research further and get back to me. They sound pretty excited. I let them know [applicant] has re-scheduled for this Friday. I will also contact [DMV employee] and let him know what is going on, should he have to play stupid. [He] loves to play stupid!"
"We are being over run by immigrants”
Read the full report to learn how immigrant Vermonters are fighting back against discrimination at the DMV!
Immigration agents are cracking down on Vermont farmworkers. Yesterday morning, undercover agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Migrant Justice leader Miguel Alcudia. One of many Vermont immigrant dairy workers targeted by ICE in recent months, Miguel was arrested after agents staked out his farm and followed him as he drove to the bank to deposit a hard-earned paycheck.
Miguel’s case is part of a wave of ICE arrests of dairy workers in the state. Earlier this year, another high profile Migrant Justice leader, Victor Diaz, was detained by ICE. In Victor’s case, the community mobilized to defend him: protests were held around the state and nearly 3,000 people from across the country signed a petition calling for his release. Though his case continues, Victor was set free and is today back in his community in Vermont. Now, with Miguel behind bars, we must do the same.