Migrant Justice sues Vt. DMV, ICE over detainment of member leaders

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Migrant Justice is suing the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The group claims the two government agencies colluded to target Migrant Justice leaders, who are in the country illegally, because of their activism.

Our Neliana Ferraro has been sorting through the evidence submitted in federal court. Migrant Justice provided anecdotal evidence Wednesday and says it obtained public records to prove its members have been targeted. But ICE says it does not target people based on their free speech.

"ICE ya basta!" That means ICE, enough already! It's what Migrant Justice members chanted as they marched through Burlington Wednesday afternoon. The group stopped at the federal courthouse where its leaders announced a federal lawsuit.

"Hoy estamos aqui demandando los derechos constitutionales porque hemos ido victimas de las malas practicas de ICE y el DMV," Enrique Balcazar said.
(Today, we are here demanding the constitutional rights because we have been victims of the bad practices by ICE and the DMV.)

Balcazar said they are demanding constitutional rights because they've been victims of bad practices by ICE and the DMV. Four leaders of Migrant Justice say they have been specifically targeted by ICE-- arrested and harassed-- because they have spoken out in support of migrant rights in the dairy industry.

"Ellos no quieren que yo expresa mi libertad de expression," said Victor Diaz of Migrant Justice.
(They don't want to me express my free speech.)

WCAX News asked ICE if this was true. It would not comment on this specific case, which is policy. But they did refer us to a previous statement that reads: "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate."

The Migrant Justice leaders also say the Vermont DMV has been working with ICE, providing personal information to help arrest undocumented workers.

"The DMV gave ICE my information and the person who did it put clearly that I was undocumented," Balcazar said.

We asked for proof. Migrant Justice provided us with these public records from 2014. In some of the emails between an ICE agent and a DMV worker migrants are discussed.

One read: "I will run them up tomorrow. Let me know when they are rescheduled for! Thanks for the outstanding work you and Bruce are doing."

We called the DMV and Gov. Phil Scott's office Wednesday afternoon to let them answer to these allegations. We had not yet heard back when this story was published.

Migrant Justice also claims to have text messages proving that ICE planted an informant in the group's meetings. But when we asked them to see them, they refused.

Migrant Justice says it wants the alleged harassment and arrests to stop. It's also asking for damages for false imprisonment and emotional distress. An attorney involved with the lawsuit estimates that could be around $100,000.