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EXCLUSIVE: State to prevent federal / local cooperation on illegal immigration

By Michael Bielawski,

The immigration rights group Migrant Justice is celebrating that the state will no longer allow federal and local authorities to collaborate on enforcement of various U.S. immigration laws.

“After years of pressure from Migrant Justice – and with the threat of another Trump presidency looming – the state has now reversed course and strengthened policy. While the changes still leave out some key protections, they represent a significant victory for immigrant rights in Vermont,” they wrote in a press release on Sunday.

Vermont has a ‘Fair and Impartial Policing Policy’ which has now been modified so that, for example, if someone is known to be an illegal immigrant Vermont authorities will not be allowed to hold that person in a cell while waiting for federal ICE authorities to come to pick him/her up.

It is unclear if authorities will be able to collaborate when investigating crimes such as sex/drug trafficking since they are often related to illegal immigration.

No ICE allowed in police stations

According to Migrant Justice, police “can no longer give federal immigration officials free access” to the people that they are holding in custody.

No inquiries about immigration at traffic stops

Migrant Justice notes that traffic stops can no longer be used “as opportunities to turn immigrants over to deportation agents.”

A border crossing “loophole”?

If someone is known to have crossed the border illegally, Vermont authorities would still have their hands tied in terms of any action they can take. Migrant Justice asserts that this is closing a “loophole” in state border law.

According to Migrant Justice, “Police can no longer duck prohibitions on investigating immigration status by claiming to investigate ‘unlawful entry.’ The policy prevents officers from investigating border crossings or making arrests, except in limited circumstances.”

Officers can’t investigate immigration status

Police are to be told by the state that they are not allowed to draw any conclusions concerning immigration status during their investigations based on someone not having or providing ID such as a social security number.

Migrant Justice writes, “Specifically, police can no longer decide to hold someone – rather than release them with a court summons – based on their immigration status. During booking, individuals will not be required to provide a social security number, and not providing one will not be seen as evidence of citizenship or immigration status.”

No ID requirements

Also, if the driver of a car does not have or offer an ID, that can no longer constitute “suspicious activity" during a police investigation.

Migrant Justice writes, “Police can not require passengers in motor vehicle stops to identify themselves, unless they are suspected of criminal activity. If requesting IDs, they must state that it is optional and that not providing an ID is not itself suspicious activity.”

The number one election issue

A Gallup poll from back in February indicated that nationwide, immigration is now the number one concern on voters’ minds heading into the 2024 presidential election.

Their report states, “Significantly more Americans name immigration as the most important problem facing the U.S. (28%) than did a month ago (20%). Immigration has now passed the government as the most often cited problem, after the two issues tied for the top position the past two months.”

Former Attorney General involved

The former Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell is chair of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council which made the decisions that led to these updated policies for the state’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.

According to statements by Sorrell to VtDigger, if they could have stripped more powers away from law enforcement regarding immigration policy, they would have.

“Nobody got everything they wanted,” Sorrell said.

The author is a writer for the Vermont Daily Chronicle


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