All three who were arrested in the last week were well-known immigration activists in the area.
Amid the ongoing crackdown on immigrants across the U.S., undercover agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, have arrested three well-known migrant activists in the state of Vermont in the last week.
The three leaders from the Burlington-based organization Migrant Justice have been arrested by ICE agents and as of Monday were still being held in custody in a detention facility in Dover, New Hampshire, the group said via its website.
On Wednesday morning, 23-year-old Cesar Alexis “Alex” Carrillo Sanchez was arrested outside a county courthouse in a Burlington about to attend a hearing for a Driving Under the Influence arrest from 2016. Carrillo works on a dairy farm and is married to a U.S. citizen with whom they have a four-year-old daughter.
On Friday two other leaders, Jose Enrique “Kike” Balcazar Sanchez, 24, and Zully Palacios Rodriguez, 23, were arrested and seen being taken away in two separate vans by undercover ICE agents after leaving the organization’s office on Friday afternoon.
Balcazar, who was born in Mexico and has been in Vermont since he was 17, also worked in the farming industry and is a well-known leader in the group and member of the Vermont attorney general’s “immigration task force” which helps represent immigration farm workers and help cities in the state respond to sweeping changes and crackdowns on immigrants under Donald Trump’s administration.
Originally from Peru, Palacios has been a public figure helping to organize female immigrant farm workers with Migrant Justice since 2016. Palacios and Balcazar have both been prominent figures in the “Milk with Dignity” program to improve the working conditions and codes of conduct for those in the dairy industry.
While Palacio, has not been held with bail, Carillo is held with US$21,000 and Balcazar on $US14,000. On Saturday a march took place in Burlington in protest of the arrest, with more demonstrations planned for other cities across the state. Petitions calling for their release have also been circulating.
Migrant Justice says that the three members do not have a criminal record and ICE has placed removal proceedings to deport them from the country. Vermont has already taken a number of steps to ensure that it will not be forced to work with federal deportation forces such as ICE.
“We have a rogue ICE agency here in the state that is targeting community leaders, human rights defenders, who are organizing for rights and dignity in their community. We have no reason to believe that the state was involved in these three arrests,” Migrant Justice organizer Will Lambek told Democracy now.
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who risk deportation under Trump’s anti-immigration plan which has given increased powers to federal agencies.