Advocates Seeking Police Immigration Restrictions Rebuke Burlington City Council
The Burlington City Council had a number of items on its agenda Tuesday evening that kept it working into the early morning hours. But a resolution that will not be considered for another two weeks brought protesters to the council chambers and led to more than an hour of public comment.
"Vermont will fight for immigrant rights."
Several immigrant rights groups organized a rally outside Burlington City Hall that eventually moved into Contois Auditorium where councilors meet. The activists had learned the evening’s agenda did not include a resolution close a loophole in Burlington’s policing policy that they say allows the police to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and border agents. Following the regular public comment period Republican City Council President Kurt Wright opened the floor to comments dedicated to the No Mas Polimigra, or “no more police-immigration collaboration” issue. Ashley Smith from Community Voices for Immigrant Rights was among those chastising the council. “I thought we were going to be on the agenda tonight and I was surprised that we were not. And I think this is the most time sensitive issue in our country right now: that is the attack on immigrants.”
Wright: “Okay, well then we'll, we'll stop each time you do that.”
The rules of the public comment period include no applause or shouting. But Wright regularly admonished people to stop. “Every time we do that we'll just stop.”
Ashley Smith continued: “Counselors we're in the middle of a national, state and city emergency. The Trump administration has unleashed an unrelenting war on immigrants and ICE and Customs and Border Protection are on an all-out witch hunt to go after immigrants throughout our state, in our city and in our country. Our state and city are complicit in this process. And Burlington Police and ICE and Border Patrol can collaborate in arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants in our city. You must pass this resolution. Burlington must take a stand.”
“Hi my name is Kason Hudman. I live in Ward 2. Me and my friends every weekend we do this thing where we go and we clean up litter and trash. While we're out we also take down hate posters that we find. A hate poster we took down in July, it was from the Patriot Front. It has the official Department of Homeland Security number on the poster. Remember this is a neo-Nazi white supremacist organization who knows that ICE is also upholding white supremacy in this country. The only way that you guys can actually put some fire and some action to your alleged condemnation of white supremacy and fascism is to actually adopt this fair and impartial policing standard.”
Wright: “Alexander Smith.”
Smith: “I think it's absolutely disgraceful that the city council is delaying the vote on this matter. I think that it's disgraceful that Kurt Wright was able to move this off the agenda when it's a pressing matter. We've seen in Vermont politically motivated attacks on undocumented organizers. City councilors need to publicly endorse this immediately so that we know which side they're on. And we need to consider any city councilor that does not take those steps to be against the rights of our neighbors and vote against them on March 3rd.”
Councilor Wright told WAMC Wednesday morning that the resolution has not yet been drafted and was never scheduled to be on Tuesday’s agenda. “It was never on the agenda actually. People were calling for us to just put it on the agenda at the last minute and it has to be vetted by the city attorney's office. That has not been done. It is a resolution that has to do with changing some policies with the Burlington Police Department in regard to immigration and policies in regard to ICE. But they’re accusing me of taking it off the agenda. But I never, didn't take it off the agenda. It never made it to the agenda. They had made plans for it to be on the agenda.”
Wright expects the resolution will appear on the March 9th city council agenda if it passes the city attorney’s review.