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Lawsuit Filed In Vermont Claims Immigrants Targeted For Activism

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An immigrant rights organization based in Vermont filed a lawsuit today against the federal government and the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Migrant Justice alleges leaders and members of the group were targeted for harassment and arrest.


 
Migrant Justice members and advocates marched through the streets of Burlington to the federal courthouse to file a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.  The immigrant farm-worker advocacy group alleges the federal and state agencies have illegally shared information and surveilled members.  
Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Angelo Guisado is representing the plaintiffs.  “This is a first amendment lawsuit. It harps on principles sacrosanct to our democracy and in our Constitution. It seeks to venerate the rights of free speech, free association and the right to be free against retaliation. For that reason so a public protest, march, to advocate for those who aren’t with us and really to resist government oppression of free speech in general we thought that it was the perfect example and paradigmatic way in which to bring about fundamental change.” 
 
The suit states “… motivated by racial and xenophobic animus, DMV employees give ICE private driver information…” Guisado refers to a 2016 Vermont Human Rights Commission investigation as a basis for the claim.  “The DMV historically referred to individuals of Hispanic  origin with such slurs as calling them illegals, referring to them as South of the Border names, being crass. They were even held I believe liable by the Vermont Human Rights Commission as part of the Rababah settlement wherein their anti-immigrant animas was really replete throughout the 30 page report.” 
 
In the past ICE has detained four of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit including Migrant Justice member Victor Garcia Diaz.  Guisado translates: “He says that he has an ever-present fear of being surveilled. That any time a car pulls up closely behind him he feels a sense of dread or paranoia. Day to day it’s become very difficult for him to lead his life as he previously did as a result of the unlawful surveillance and retaliation.” 
 
The suit seeks an injunction to stop the federal agencies from targeting, monitoring or detaining Migrant Justice members and prohibiting the Vermont DMV from sharing racially sensitive information with immigration agencies.  The defendants have 60 days to respond.

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