Should Vermont beef up its fair and impartial policing policy?

Published: Jan. 24, 2019 at 4:58 PM EST
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There's a war of words brewing between Vermont's Attorney General and advocates for farmworkers in Vermont, who say there hasn't been meaningful action yet to protect migrant communities.

Member from the group Migrant Justice and the ACLU of Vermont testified before Vermont lawmakers Thursday morning.

"We want to be able to leave this fear behind, so we can truly become part of the state and community of Vermont, and live here without fear," said Jose Ignacio through a translator.

The dairy worker is among those calling for stronger protections for migrant farmworker communities, saying the state's fair and impartial policing policy is falling short. They claim police in Vermont are still providing information to federal immigration authorities and supporters say Vermont's Attorney General -- could do more.

"I think it's important to stand up and say that lip service is not enough. Symbolic resistance is not enough. We have real work to do here," said Rep. Selene Colburn, P-Burlington.

"They raise very valid points, and at the end of the day we all want the same thing," Donovan said.

He maintains his office is working to protect immigrant communities. In a statement Thursday morning he listed the lawsuits and amicus briefs the state joined that pushed back against federal immigration practices, and he pointed to the immigration task force his office convened to advise towns on federal immigration law.

At a Wednesday night forum on race in Rutland, Donovan told concerned citizens they are working on protections. He said local law enforcement should be doing community policing, not working for ICE. "We have to do more to protect the immigrant community in this state and we have to be unequivocal that local law enforcement is local," he said. "We don't need to ask what people's status is."

Donovan says the fair and impartial policing challenge from the federal government is still under negotiations And that his office is recommending legislation and designing trainings for police to support Vermont's immigrant communities.