We can’t let Migrant Justice be persecuted

January 15, 2019

Immigrant farmworkers in Vermont organized in the group Migrant Justice have been fighting for their labor rights against Ben & Jerry’s and other employers for several years. They have faced a campaign of sustained harassment and repression — including the 2017 arrest of three prominent Migrant Justice activists who were threatened with deportation and the targeting of other Migrant Justice members by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE_ and the Department of Homeland Security. Now, the group is pursuing a lawsuit against this harassment.

In an open letter, local labor and activist organizations declare that they are standing in solidarity with Migrant Justice and are vowing to defend its rights.

VERMONT LABOR and community organizations stand with Migrant Justice in their lawsuit against the political persecution of their members by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). We offer our support and solidarity in their fight for justice and against the targeting of immigrant labor activists in Vermont fighting for safety and dignity at work.

On November 14, Migrant Justice, represented by a number of legal organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a lawsuit in federal court detailing the deliberate targeting of dozens of its members for detention and deportation by ICE and DHS, in collaboration with Vermont DMV. This targeting comes on the heels of successful and inspiring public campaigns led by immigrant farmworkers that brought thousands of Vermonters into the streets and notched significant victories.

Hundreds join the March for Dignity in the streets of Burlington
Hundreds join the March for Dignity in the streets of Burlington (Migrant Justice)

In 2017, Migrant Justice signed a landmark agreement with Ben & Jerry’s that established basic fair working standards in the company’s supply chain, including a guaranteed $10.50 minimum wage and a day off each week. The victory came after years of organizing by Vermont’s immigrant farmworker community, and followed the successful 2013 passage of the Vermont Driver’s Privilege Card law, which allows undocumented immigrants to acquire legal driving permits. These have been inspiring campaigns of workers struggling for dignity on the job and in the community.

As a result of these visible campaigns, though, Migrant Justice as an organization, and its members as individuals, have been politically targeted by ICE. The ACLU reports, “Using tactics that law enforcement agencies typically employ to disrupt organized crime, the lawsuit alleges that ICE agents planted at least one informant in Migrant Justice, attempted to hack into the email accounts of the group’s members, and compiled detailed dossiers on their movements and social circles.”

The Vermont DMV played an active role in facilitating this surveillance and repression, sending identifying information about Driver’s Privilege Card applicants to ICE. Since 2016, ICE has arrested about 40 members of Migrant Justice, and outspoken leaders of the group and lawsuit plaintiffs Zully Palacios Rodrigues and Enrique Balcazar, both with no criminal record, were labeled as “high-profile targets.” These are unambiguously politically-motivated attacks, that are intended to silence free speech and have a chilling effect on the heroic work of activists fighting for immigrant rights and workplace justice.

The actions of ICE, DHS, and the Vermont DMV are an appalling violation of the rights of all Vermonters to freedom of speech and advocacy for our rights as workers. As fellow workers and community members, we stand in full support of the demands of Migrant Justice. We demand an immediate end to the political repression of immigrant activists, and in particular call on our state authorities to stop collaborating with ICE and DHS in targeting activists. In this time of intense xenophobia and repression of the immigrant community across the country, we stand in full solidarity with Migrant Justice and their legal battle — an injury to one is an injury to all!


International Socialist Organization–Burlington Branch
Democratic Socialists of America–Burlington Branch
United Electrical Workers Local 203
United Academics, AFT/AAUP–UVM
American Federation of Teachers–Vermont
National Education Association–Vermont
Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series
Queer Student Union–UVM
Peace & Justice Center
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
Vermont Workers’ Center
AFSCME Local 1674

Further Reading

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