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Activists demand release of nationally recognized migrant worker - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Activists demand release of nationally recognized migrant worker

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Storming Sen. Patrick Leahy's office Friday, migrant workers demanded the senator call for the release of activist and farmworker Victor Diaz.

"Two ICE agents wearing plain clothes approached us, asked for Victor's name and arrested him," Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice said through an interpreter.

Balcazar was with Diaz in Stowe Thursday when immigration officers stopped them on their way to a Mexican cultural event at a local restaurant.

"We started to panic because seeing our friend was being detained without knowing any of the reasons or any of the causes... we were pretty afraid," Balcazar said.

Diaz is an undocumented worker who's lived in Vermont for several years. He is also an outspoken, well-known leader for workers like him across the country. Last year, he was even featured in The New York Times.

In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Diaz became an enforcement priority as a result of his November 2015 DUI conviction in Vermont: "U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested Jose Victor Garcia-Diaz, 24 and a citizen of Mexico, on Thursday, April 21, in the public parking lot of a shopping center in Stowe, Vermont. Garcia-Diaz is an ICE enforcement priority as a result of his November 2015 DUI conviction in Vermont. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings."

Before the release of ICE's statement, Leahy's state director, John Tracy, said the senator has helped the migrant community in the past and that these challenging situations highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform for the hundreds of undocumented immigrants living in the state.

"They're good members of the community. They're helping our agricultural sector, which is the culture of Vermont. They've been part of Vermont society for years," Tracy said.

Activists with Migrant Justice say they will continue to push for the release of the Addison County farmworker and that Diaz has widespread support.

"Victor has a community in Vermont who are worried about him now and want to see him free," said Brendan O'Neill of Migrant Justice.

A statement from Migrant Justice said, "The fact that Victor was arrested for a DUI does not change anything. The Vermont justice system is equipped to deal with DUI offenses and there is absolutely no reason why Victor should be deported if he has already been held accountable to these Vermont laws."

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