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Legislation Forestalling Trump Immigration Orders Proposed In Vermont

Vermont Statehouse
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse in winter

Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott and state legislative leaders have introduced legislation that would clarify the duties of law enforcement in carrying out federal immigration tasks — and require that the governor first approve any local or state enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Senate Bill 79,  “An act relating to freedom from compulsory collection of personal information,” states in part “…through the Common Benefits Clause, Vermont residents are afforded the benefits and protections of law enforcement and public safety without regard to their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, or disability.  Consequently, they have a reasonable expectation that government officials will not monitor them or otherwise single them out merely on the basis of these characteristics.”  The bill, announced by Republican Governor Phil Scott, and formally proposed Thursday has tri-partisan sponsorship.  

House Republican Heidi Scheuerman says the bill addresses the constitutional concerns of immigration executive orders issued by President Donald Trump.   “This bill specifically is designed to address the constitutional issues: specifically the 4th Amendment to the Constitution and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution that we believe we need to protect in our own state here in Vermont. So both the unreasonable searches and seizures and our states’ rights issues. So that’s what this does.  This isn’t about President Trump or to take the immigration aside, this is all about protecting our Constitution. And I took that oath. I’m going to fight for that.”  

The bill was crafted based on recommendations from the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet. Created on January 30th, the panel is charged with reviewing the president’s Executive Orders and determining areas that are not in compliance with state or constitutional law.  Members include the governor’s legal counsel, the Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Senate Pro Tem, House Speaker, Defender General, and representatives from the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police and Vermont Sheriffs’ Association.
Vermont Human Rights Commission Executive Director Karen Richards says her office has been hearing a lot of concern regarding the federal immigration executive orders from Vermonters.  “It provides some protection for folks and some hopefully some security for them in knowing that Vermont is not going to participate with federal authorities in seeking to round up immigrants in the state.  Or the other piece of it is to um create any kind of a registry that could be used or created by federal officials to identify these people based on their for example on their religion.”

Migrant Justice Vermont Outreach Coordinator Abel Luna says the governor’s stance against the president’s policies and the proposed legislation sends a message of hope to immigrants in Vermont.  “Our communities, farm working community, you know we need to feel safe and secure.  And I think a message from the governor that you know he’s willing to stand up against Trump’s, um, very you know nasty agenda, you know that’s a lot of hope.  It reassures you know that Vermont is helping to fight.”

Legislative leaders hope the bill can be passed quickly. The Vermont House and Senate Judiciary committees held a joint hearing on the proposed legislation Friday morning.  Richards reports that committee members want to change the bill to be effective upon passage rather than waiting until July 1st.

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