Protect immigrants from unfair policing

Many of you have read of the vile and racist comments uttered by a police officer at the meeting of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council (VCJC) on Feb. 7.

An undocumented worker spoke of being afraid to leave the farm because of Vermont's law enforcement's continued cooperation with federal immigration and his fear of deportation. Mike Major, a deputy at the Chittenden County Sheriff's Office, then said, on a hot mic, "You're f-ing here illegally and you're worried about being safe? Yeah, OK."

Even worse, Mike Major was a member of the VCJC. He has resigned from that body and from his law enforcement position. But this is not over.

How can any immigrant in Vermont hear those words and not fear that the police will turn them over to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the U.S. Border Patrol?

This has been happening in many parts of Vermont. As an example, a Chittenden County deputy detained, arrested, and turned over a farm worker to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which incarcerated and ultimately deported him. His alleged crime was averting his eyes when a car he was riding in was pulled over for speeding.

Vermont's Fair and Impartial Policing Policy currently allows this cooperation between our law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. During Donald Trump's presidency, the 2016 model policy underwent reevaluation. The current policy reflects the rollback of safeguards for immigrants that were in the original policy.

A process to review and update the policy began in late 2019 but was delayed by the ad hoc committee for 18 months. That ad hoc committee took from December 2019 to June 2021 to come up with a proposed draft for the Fair and Impartial Policing subcommittee of the VCJC. More than two more years went by until that subcommittee finally conducted a vote in November 2023 and passed the proposed policy on to the full VCJC.

We anticipated that the VCJC would vote on the revised policy at its Feb. 7 meeting. Even though the outburst by Mike Major showed that the protections in the revised policy are needed more than ever, instead of adopting the subcommittee's recommendations, the council voted to have the reforms sent back once again to the subcommittee to review last-minute suggestions sent in by the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police. The police chiefs had plenty of time before the subcommittee vote to send their comments.

This action demonstrated clear bias in favor of law enforcement, as the council granted yet more time to consider these law enforcement objections. The review of the 2017 racist policy has been going on since 2019, and our undocumented neighbors continue to live in fear that a routine encounter with law enforcement could lead to detention or deportation.

Stand with immigrants and call on your legislators to urge the Criminal Justice Council to vote on the proposed policy without further delay!

Windham No Más Polimigra


Liv Berelson, Brattleboro//John Field, Putney//Jane Katz Field, Putney//Claire Halverson, Dummerston//Francie Marbury, Marlboro//Ann Schroeder, Dummerston//Ellen Schwartz, Brattleboro

This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

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