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Hiding illegal resident identities from police could cost Vermont federal funds

By   /   February 27, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 5 of 11 in the series Sanctuary Policies
Photo by Eric Boehm

FAIR POLICING?: A new bill in Vermont looks to expand policing policies to shield the identities of illegal residents from federal immigration agencies.


A bill strengthening Vermont’s policy protecting illegal immigrants could put the Green Mountain State on a fast track for a cut in federal funding.

Vermont is one of five states with laws that limit cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. Thanks to a new bill, even that cooperation may soon be prohibited statewide.

H.492, introduced last week, requires local law enforcement agencies to fully implement Vermont’s Fair and Impartial Policing policy established in 2016.

In a Feb. 6 letter to Gov. Phil Scott, James Lyall, executive director of ACLU Vermont, said while local departments are following some parts of the policy, “it is critical to underscore that many of those policies do not contain the immigrant-protective provisions included in the full FIP policy.”

Lyall said “ensuring that local police do not undertake federal immigration enforcement activities” is one of the central goals of Fair and Impartial Policing, and he urged the governor “to work with the legislature to see that Vermont’s FIP policy is enacted and implemented in full, statewide, as soon as is practicable.”

Such policies could put Vermont in the spotlight for cuts in federal funding. President Trump called for a halt to funding in his Jan. 25 executive order, and a Republican majority in Congress is hoping to put bite behind the bark through federal legislation currently under review.

Under Vermont’s policy, state law enforcement members are not allowed to ask or investigate a person or suspect’s immigration status unless “it is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a criminal offense.”

Additionally, “immigration status … shall not be used as a criteria for citation, arrest, or continued custody,” and agency members “shall not prolong any stop in order to investigate immigration status or to allow CBP or ICE to investigate immigration status,” the policy states.

If an officer becomes aware of illegal status, they are not allowed to share that information with federal immigration agencies or detain that person simply because they are in the state illegally.

While there is no official legal designation for sanctuary jurisdictions, a U.S. Senate bill that aims to defund sanctuary jurisdictions defines them as localities that “in any way restrict” government agencies from enforcing immigration law through restriction of information:


In this Act, the term “sanctuary jurisdiction” means any State or political subdivision of a State, including any law enforcement entity of a State or of a political subdivision of a State, that:

(1) has in effect a statute, ordinance, policy, or practice that is in violation of subsection (a) or (b) of section 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1373); or

(2) has in effect a statute, ordinance, policy, or practice that prohibits any government entity or official from complying with a detainer that has been lawfully issued or a request to notify about the release of an alien that has been made by the Department of Homeland Security in accordance with section 236 and 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1226 and 1357) and section 287.7 of title 8, Code of Federal Regulations.

The U.S. Department of Justice has historically interpreted this definition to mean local governments not reporting illegal immigrants in custody — the very action ordered by Vermont’s policy.

“The issue becomes, where does it cross the line?” Ira Mehlman, media director for Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Watchdog.

“When do local jurisdictions say, we’re not going to help, but we’re also going to make it more difficult. … Releasing is impeding.”

Vermont’s policy also says local law enforcement will not comply with administrative warrants, immigration detainers and requests for notification issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration detainer requests are low in Vermont, compared to other states. Historically, local law enforcement have complied. Between 2014 and 2016, the state received only 26 requests and complied with all of them. ICE took only 4 of the 26 people into custody.

Of all interior deportations by ICE in 2016, 92 percent were convicted criminals.

Pew Research Center estimates that Vermont has less than 5,000 illegal residents in the state, one of the lowest numbers in the country. However, illegal residents make up a significant portion of Vermont’s dairy workforce, a fact that critics of Trump’s immigration stance say shows the importance of state protection.

Currently, only Montpelier and Burlington are listed as sanctuary cities in Vermont, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Mandating full statewide implementation of the Fair and Impartial Policing policy could make Vermont a sanctuary state.

President Trump has promised the Department of Homeland Security will be reviewing and revising the list of sanctuary jurisdictions, which he plans to release to the public.

Emma Lamberton is a reporter for Vermont Watchdog. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on [email protected]

Part of 11 in the series Sanctuary Policies


Emma Lamberton is Vermont Watchdog’s health care and Rutland area reporter. She has written for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, two of Vermont’s largest newspapers, and her work has published in The Washington Times, FoxNews.com and a number of local Vermont newspapers. She is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. Emma is always looking for new stories. Readers are encouraged to contact her with tips and story ideas.