Federal Lawsuit: Vermont DMV Helped ICE Target Immigration Activists

According to reporting from National Public Radio (NPR), undocumented immigrants may have reasons to be concerned when they apply for a driver’s license — even if they are doing so in a state where they have the absolute right to do so. Notably, California law allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid state driver’s license.

A lawsuit filed by an immigration rights organization called Migrant Justice Against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) alleges that state DMV employees improperly helped federal immigration enforcement agencies target immigration activists for deportation.

Migrant Dairy Workers Were Targeted For Deportation After Getting a Vermont Driver’s License

Migrant Justice alleges that its leader, Enrique Balcazar, was targeted for deportation by ICE in retaliation for his activism. Mr. Balcazar, a migrant dairy farm worker in Vermont, notes that 40 other migrant dairy farm workers have also been arrested by immigration authorities in recent years. New information obtained indicates that these workers were targeted by ICE after they applied for a Vermont state driver’s license. This occurred despite the fact that Vermont is one of 14 U.S. jurisdictions that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive a state driver’s licenses.

DMV Workers Passed “South of the Border” Names to ICE

Disturbingly, Migrant Justice obtained an email sent by a Vermont DMV employee to ICE in which the employee passed along “South of the Border” names to immigration enforcement. Based on a prior lawsuit, the state’s DMV should not have been working with ICE at all — let alone in a racially targeted manner

In 2016, the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reached a settlement with the state’s DMV. Under the terms of that settlement, all cooperation between the Vermont DMV and federal immigration authorities should have stopped. However, it appears that DMV supervisors and employees continued to pass on driver information to ICE.

ICE Has a History of Targeting Political Activists

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that ICE has been accused of targeting political activists for deportation. In 2018, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against ICE after two dozen immigration activists were targeted in New York City. This includes the New Sanctuary Coalition’s Ravi Ragbir — a Trinidad and Tobago native who was arrested by ICE in a ‘cruel’ manner, according to a federal judge.

In the case of the Vermont migrant dairy workers, the lawsuit contends that ICE violated their constitutional rights by targeting them for removal because of their political activity. Among other things, Migrant Justice is seeking a ruling that prevents ICE from targeting the group in the future, prevents the Vermont DMV from sharing information of suspected undocumented immigrants, and provides injunctive relief to those who have already been affected by these unlawful tactics.

Get Help From a Los Angeles Deportation Lawyer Today

At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our California immigration attorney has extensive experience representing immigration facing deportation or removal from the United States. To set up a fully confidential consultation with a top-rated immigration lawyer, please contact our Los Angeles law office at (213) 262-2000.