Published on July 27, 2022 on The Commons

Windham County Sheriff can make our communities welcoming to immigrants

In June, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that requires local law enforcement agencies overseeing county detention facilities to collaborate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enforce immigration laws.

This move, which came amid opposition from towns all over Florida, is a cautionary tale about what could happen elsewhere.

Here in Vermont, eight jurisdictions, including Brattleboro, have ensured a clear dividing line between their local law enforcement departments and immigration authorities.

They have done this by adopting five improvements to Vermont’s model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP) to protect immigrants from being detained or deported. Immigrant workers in Vermont have been picked up and detained while engaging in daily activities, and many remain at risk until the loopholes in local FIPPs are closed.

The policies being imposed in Florida originated under the Reagan Administration as a way to block immigrants fleeing U.S.-sponsored wars in Central America. Forced collaboration between federal immigration authorities and local law enforcement has been opposed by human rights advocates, immigrant communities, and police themselves around the country.

Today, Windham County welcomes asylum seekers from Afghanistan and around the world. A group of community members has been trying to make sure that the county will be a place where immigrants of all backgrounds can live without fear of being targeted because of their perceived immigration status.

We are pleased that Brattleboro has taken the lead in our county by adopting the reforms, joining Winooski, Hartford, Burlington, South Burlington, Norwich, Richmond, Shelburne, and Addison County. In March, voters in Marlboro, Dummerston, and Putney — towns that contract with the Windham County Sheriff’s Office for their law enforcement — passed resolutions by landslide majorities calling on the sheriff to amend his department’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy to provide these protections. Sadly, the Sheriff has not adopted those amendments.

Vermont needs a statewide policy that would prevent the kind of collaboration being forced on Florida’s law enforcement officials.

Though the state Legislature tasked Vermont’s Criminal Justice Council with revising the statewide FIPP by the first of the year, the Council has yet to take action on these protections. But the Windham County Sheriff can make our communities welcoming to immigrants by amending his department’s FIPP.

There are no barriers to making these changes: all other Vermont communities’ improved FIPPs have been found by the state attorney general to be in compliance with state policy.

As southern Vermont welcomes refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrant populations to be our neighbors, now is the time for the sheriff to do his part in ensuring that they will be welcome.

Visit www.caspvt.org/no-mas-polimigra to find out more, and join us in signing a petition urging Sheriff Mark Anderson to act now.

Kate Paarlberg-Kvam
Windham

Published on The Reformer on March 29th, 2022.

Make Windham County safe for immigrants

COMMENTARY

BY KATE PAARLBERG-KVAM On March 1, voters in Dummerston, Putney, and Marlboro voted by overwhelming majorities to call on the Windham County Sheriff’s Department to make changes to its Fair and Impartial Policing policy, as advocated by Migrant Justice’s No Más Polimigra campaign. These changes are aimed at ensuring the safety of immigrant, refugee, and other BIPOC Vermonters, and would limit the ability of local law enforcement to collaborate with federal deportation agencies.

Similar reforms have already been instituted in eight jurisdictions around the state, including Brattleboro and the Addison County Sheriff’s department. It is clear that the voters in Wind-ham County, the sheriff’s constituents, are eager to see the No Más Polimigra reforms incorporated into Windham County’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy as well. At present, Sheriff Anderson’s objections to following the will of the voters are based on assertions of the personal good will of local police, and the unlikelihood that any of them would collaborate with federal immigration authorities, even if the policy in place would allow them to do so.

The Windham County No Más Polimigra campaign calls on Sheriff Anderson to implement the voters’ desired changes immediately, for the following reasons:

• We cannot leave county residents and visitors vulnerable. County residents, visitors, and passers-through who are immigrants — or at risk of being perceived as such based on their identities or physical appearances — should not be forced to live with a looming threat of massive personal upheaval and ruin and the immobility such a threat creates. It is immoral to delay these protections any longer.

• Only written policy grants protection. Civil rights protections are not in place or enforceable until they are written into policy. Right now, deputies can discriminate at their discretion, and cannot be held formally accountable if they do. The internal culture of the department, kind-hearted though it may be, does not diminish that threat. Written policy changes will ensure that all officers in the sheriff’s department know what is expected, rather than leaving decisions about collaboration with ICE to individual discretion and gambling on officers’ largesse.

• Making the reforms is within the bounds of Vermont law. The Vermont Attorney General has approved all eight reformed policies as being in compliance with state requirements, and all eight jurisdictions have implemented the stronger policy without any legal repercussions.

• The reforms are simple. The proposed improvements are clear and straightforward. In addition to providing increased protections, they also make the policy easier to understand and implement for officers on the ground.

• Changed policies are easily approved. In the jurisdictions around Vermont where these reforms have been implemented, the attorney general has approved the policy changes quickly and without issue. When the town of Brattleboro implemented the same changes, they were approved in one month.

There is no reason for the sheriff to continue making excuses to ignore the will of the voters. We call on Sheriff Anderson to make the proposed reforms without delay. To learn more about the reforms and add your name to the growing list of Windham County residents in support of safety for immigrant and BIPOC Vermonters, go to www.caspvt.org/ no-mas-polimigra.

Kate Paarlberg-Kvam writes for the Windham County No Más Polimigra campaign. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.

Migrant Justice LogoWindham County No Más Polimigra Campaign

Read our latest press release

Justicia Migrante (Migrant Justice)’s No Más Polimigra campaign advocates the closure of five devastating loopholes in Vermont’s model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP). The state policy has been adopted by local departments across the state.

The campaign’s improvements have been adopted by the police departments of Brattleboro, Burlington, Winooski, South Burlington, Hartford, Norwich, Richmond, and by the Addison County Sheriff’s Office. Every reformed policy was approved by the VT Attorney General’s Office.

The Windham wing of the campaign got together in 2020, and began public events and outreach. The Brattleboro Police Department adopted the approvements as soon as they were presented – calling them “a no-brainer” – and quickly got the reformed policy approved by the Attorney General.

The campaign began meeting with Windham County Sheriff Anderson in early 2021. Residents of towns that contract with the Sheriff have been increasing their voices. Three towns have gotten articles on their town meeting ballots.

Sign the online petition to Sheriff Anderson: https://forms.gle/3boquErFhCdQRr8R8

Contact the campaign for information, holding an event, brainstorming, and support.
Email: sfagit@gmail.com

2022 Town Meeting Day

The campaign is celebrating the landslide victories of ballot articles in Putney, Marlboro, and Dummerston! The articles are nonbinding resolutions that urge Sheriff Anderson to adopt the campaign’s FIPP reforms. The outcome makes the will of the Sheriff’s constituents clear.

Now the work is to keep up the activity in those towns, and to ramp up the voices and activity in the other towns that contract with the Sheriff: Westminster, Newfane, Grafton, Saxtons River, Windham, Athens, Halifax, Vernon, Jamaica, and Londonderry.

We cannot rest until these policy reforms are made.
— Come talk about getting something going in your town. There are options of many sizes.
— Come just to be part of the overall campaign.

 

General Contact: Mark sfagit@gmail.com
Dummerston: Ann ann@comcast.net
Marlboro: Francie francie.marbury@gmail.com
Putney: Jane jane.katz.field@gmail.com

Read the Press Release leading to Town Meeting Day.

Sheriff Anderson can and must add these protections right now.

We cannot leave county residents and visitors vulnerable.

County residents, visitors and passers-through who are under-documented—or at risk of being perceived as such—should not live with a looming threat of massive personal upheaval and ruin. It is immoral to delay these protections another minute.

Only written policy grants protection.

Civil rights protections are not in place until they are written. Policy ensures that Sheriff’s deputies know exactly what is expected, rather than leaving collaboration with ICE to individual discretion. Relying on good intentions is the opposite of establishing protection.

The reforms are simple.

There are five changes. Each of them is a single sentence or phrase, inserted into a specific place. Their structural impact is minimal and does not complicate any broader reform process.

Adopting these reforms is legally safe.

The Vermont Attorney General has approved all eight reformed policies as in compliance with state requirements, including how they deal with federal law. These protections can be in place without any legal jeopardy to the Sheriff.

Changed policies are easily approved.

The AG has approved the eight reformed policies quickly and without issue. Brattleboro PD got their changes approved in one month. It does not interrupt any broader reform process.

Five Reforms to Fair and Impartial Policing Policy

No Discrimination in Detentions Discretion (VIII,6)

“…personal characteristics and/or immigration status shall not be used as criteria for citation, arrest, or continued custody.”

Protect Confidentiality (XI,1)

“No information about an individual shall be shared with federal immigration authorities unless necessary to an ongoing investigation of a felony, for which there is probable cause, and the investigation is unrelated to the enforcement of federal civil immigration law.”

Protect Victims and Witnesses (X,4)

“… members shall not share information about crime victims/witnesses with federal immigration authorities, unless it is with the individual’s consent.”

Due Process for Detainees (XI,4)

“Unless ICE or CBP agents have a judicially issued criminal warrant, or members have a legitimate law enforcement purpose exclusive of the enforcement of civil immigration laws, members shall not grant ICE or CBP agents access to individuals in [Agency] custody.”

Close the Border Crossing Pretext (IX)

“… members shall not make warrantless arrests or detain individuals on suspicion of ‘unlawful entry’ unless the suspect is apprehended in the process of entering the U.S. without inspection.”

Other documents:

 

Why this matters

Vermont law enforcement will reach out to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a variety of circumstances. See examples below:

In this video, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy pulls over a driver for registration plate issues. He almost immediately calls for a “Romeo Unit” – border control agents that can be contacted for general assistance. When the unit gets there, the deputy issues the traffic tickets and then turns the driver over to the agents. The agents then interrogate the driver about everyone in the nearby houses, and talk about setting up an ICE raid.

A father and son were driving a farm vehicle and were pulled over for a registration violation. When the deputy saw one of them had a Mexican ID, he radioed for CBP, held them until federal agents arrived, and freely provided information to the Border Patrol agents. The two were arrested, spent six months in immigration detention and were deported.

A Chittenden County Sheriff detained, arrested, and turned over a farm worker to CBP, who incarcerated him and ultimately deported him. What was his alleged crime? Being an undocumented passenger in a car pulled over for speeding. The Sheriff released a report justifying the deputy’s actions based on suspicion of “human smuggling.” The evidence for that suspicion? That the individual and another passenger were “averting their gazes” from the deputy.

A Vermont resident, husband, and father of three, was arrested by Vermont State Police on suspicion of intoxicated driving. After his arrest the trooper made a civilian call to ICE. State police allowed ICE agents to enter the police barracks, interrogate and arrest him. Olman spent months in immigration detention before being reunited with his family.

An officer with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department stopped a farm worker for speeding. Upon observing that the farm worker didn’t speak English, the officer called Border Patrol for “help with translation.” In actuality, the officer had figured out how to communicate using an app on his phone, he just called Border Patrol because he thought the farm worker was undocumented.

An undocumented farm worker summed up what many such workers in Vermont are feeling: “Every morning when I leave my house to drive and I’m looking in the rear view mirror looking over my shoulder because you have to go out not only with fear of immigration but that fear of the police as well, because you’re worried that any interaction, getting pulled over, could result in you getting locked up and deported,” de la Cruz said. “And so you have to live with that emotion, every day.”

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The FIPP is a policy that is supposed to uphold the principle of equal treatment under the law by protecting Vermont residents from biased policing based on personal characteristics such as race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This current policy was approved by the VT Criminal Justice Training Council in 2017 and is supposed to be implemented by law enforcement agencies across the state.

The statewide FIPP is a floor, not a ceiling. Local communities and law enforcement departments can strengthen their FIPPs and send them to the Vermont Attorney General to verify that they are in compliance with the statewide policy.

Brattleboro has recently strengthened their FIPP.  Prior to that, Winooski, Hartford, Burlington, South Burlington, Norwich, and Richmond passed strengthened FIPPs.  In addition, the Addison County Sheriff was the first to improve a county-wide policy.

This term refers to whether or not a person has the requisite documents verifying lawful presence in the U.S. For some immigrants, this status is relatively stable, but for many, it is subject to change. Immigrants in the asylum process, for instance (many of whom live in Windham County), go from one status to another as their cases progress.

While Border Patrol can only pick up people within 100 miles of international borders, ICE has no such limits.

After Driver Privilege Cards became available to residents regardless of immigration status, the Department of Motor Vehicles routinely reported undocumented applicants to ICE, until they were required to stop that practice by a lawsuit filed by Migrant Justice. One of the individuals affected by that was Abdel Rababah, a Jordanian national living in Putney, who applied for a privilege card at the Dummerston DMV, and was reported to ICE. Federal immigration then detained him and initiated deportation hearings.

The purpose of these improvements is to ensure that local law enforcement doesn’t engage in the kinds of collaboration that we saw with the DMV. For many immigrants, the fear of being reported to ICE is enough to keep them from traveling.

We want our county to be welcoming to all people, including immigrants and refugees, and we want all our county’s residents to be able to travel freely so they can work, shop, seek medical care, and live independently. For immigrants--as for others--decisions about where to live are generally driven by other factors such as access to work, housing, and proximity to family or friends.

No. They are still able to enforce Vermont laws. These improvements only mean that they can’t enforce immigration law when no other law has been broken.

It is not the job of local law enforcement to enforce immigration law.

The Vermont Attorney General’s office has stated that the eight strengthened FIPPs are in compliance with state policy. They would not do that if the changes were illegal.

Local law enforcement work for us and we can hold them to the standards of human rights that we want in our communities. By passing a non-binding resolution the town is sending a message to the county sheriff that we want his office to adopt these changes.