Is ICE targeting immigration activists? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is ICE targeting immigration activists?

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Details are lacking after federal agents arrested undocumented immigrants last week. The actions, apparently legal and in line with the president's policies, has left activists and some public officials scratching their heads.

Twenty-four year-old Enrique Balcazar and 23-year-old Zully Pallacios are in a New Hampshire detention center facing deportation. The undocumented couple live in Vermont and have been on the front lines of the immigration debate here.

A small protest formed briefly Friday night outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in St. Albans and broke up after the threat of trespassing charges leveled by local police as a federal agent stood-by. Saturday, dozens more demonstrated in Burlington.

"I'm not scared at all," said Balcazar in a January interview with WCAX. He said President Donald Trump's election would not dissuade him from continuing to stand up for migrant rights, and against president Donald Trump's policies. Speaking through an interpreter, he said he didn't trust the president to focus deportations on those with criminal records. "No, I don't believe in him at all," he said.

In a statement, ICE says it targeted Pallacios for overstaying her visa by nearly a year, and found Balcazar when they pulled her over. The pair's attorney, Matthew Cameron, says neither has a criminal record or previous run-ins with immigration officials and that ICE agents tailed them from a Migrant Justice meeting. He says his clients landed in agents' crosshairs because they spoke out. "This was retaliatory. There was nothing about them that would have drawn ICE's attention otherwise," Cameron said. 

Immigration attorney Leslie Holman says that's possible. "It's also within the realm of possibility that by being a spokesperson he's out there," she said. Holman says she's disturbed by the arrests made in Vermont last week, but that they're within the federal government's police powers -- powers she doubts the previous administration would have used to prosecute non-violent offenders. "The executive order makes them a priority, contrary to what we saw under the Obama administration in which there was prosecutorial discretion," she said.

In a tweet over the weekend, Sen. Patrick Leahy said he's asked ICE for an explanation. Sen. Bernie Sanders said the same Monday, adding that arrests like last week's could jeopardize the state's already fragile dairy industry which relies heavily on migrant labor.

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