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Arrest of three immigrant farm workers sparks protest

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 29, 2019 at 8:58 PM EDT
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Protesters and activists are speaking out against Immigration Customs Enforcement after three immigrant farm workers from Mexico were detained in Vermont.

Ismael Mendez-Lopez, 41, Mario Diaz-Aguilar, 23, and Ubertoni Aguilar-Montero, 28, were arrested on Sunday near the Walmart on Seymour Drive in Newport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says they sent agents after receiving a tip from a concerned citizen. According to the government agency, none of the men had documentation that allows them to enter or stay in the United States. They were turned over to I.C.E for deportation.

On Saturday, Migrant Justice, an organization that supports immigrant farm workers, held a rally in support of Mendez-Lopez, Diaz-Aguilar and Aguilar-Montero. Protesters said the three men were shopping and wiring money to their family members in Mexico when they were detained.

“We’re demanding that ICE, Border Patrol and Immigration keep their hands off our community. They have no right to take someone’s freedom away,” said Abel Luna of Migrant Justice.

Protesters defended Mendez-Lopez, Diaz-Aguilar and Aguilar-Montero, saying they deserve to work and live in this country because of their contributions to the economy as dairy farm workers.

“They do the hardest jobs, the lowest-paying jobs, and some of the dirtiest jobs that nobody wants to do,” said Luna. “These people who are putting food on our tables are some of the most food insecure workers who cannot even step out of the farm to buy food because they end up getting arrested.”

Protester Eileen Baker said she thinks it’s “bad for our country” to deport people who have built their homes, communities and businesses in the U.S.

Other farm workers and members of Migrant Justice, Zully Palacios and Victor Diaz, agreed with those statements, saying their community is vital to Vermont’s economic growth.

“So many people-- when they’re drinking their glass of milk-- they aren’t thinking about the workers that are behind that product, who have had to labor for that to get to their table,” said Palacios.

The three men are being held in the Strafford County House of Corrections in Dover, New Hampshire. Members of Migrant Justice say they will appear in immigration court in Boston but that court date has not yet been set.

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