Two More  Vt. Migrants Are Detained

Published: 3/17/2017 11:51:57 PM
Modified: 3/17/2017 11:52:08 PM

Burlington — Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Enrique “Kike” Balcazar and a woman late Friday afternoon, according to an activist with the group Migrant Justice.

They are the second and third members of the group to be detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents this week. Cesar “Alex” Carrillo was arrested on Wednesday morning outside the Chittenden County Courthouse in Burlington.

Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice organizer, said he received a call from Balcazar around 5 p.m., during which Balcazar said he had been pulled over on Shelburne Road and was being arrested by agents. Lambek showed up just as Balcazar and his passenger were loaded into separate ICE vehicles, he said.

Balcazar’s female passenger also is a Migrant Justice activist, Lambek said, but he declined to release her identity. Neither Balcazar or his passenger were facing any criminal charges, according to Lambek, and he declined to comment on their immigration status.

An ICE spokesman did not return a message on Friday seeking confirmation of the arrests and information on what led to the stop.

Carrillo was arrested on his way to a hearing stemming from a 2016 driving under the influence charge, which the state was preparing to dismiss.

“It’s clear to us this is political retaliation,” Lambek said of Friday’s arrests.

Balcazar is a prominent member of Migrant Justice, and a regular at protests and rallies. He was an advocate for Vermont’s driver’s privilege card law, a policy implemented in 2014 that allows individuals to get a driver’s licenses without proving legal presence in the United States.

Balcazar was a member of Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan’s recently created task force on immigration issues, which was initiated to formulate a local response to executive orders from President Donald Trump. Donovan could not be reached for comment on Friday.

“It’s obvious that the local ICE office is looking to discourage immigrants in Vermont from organizing for their rights and dignity by attacking the only organization led by members of their community. They’re hoping to break the community’s spirit by targeting its leaders,” he added.

Lambek said Migrant Justice and supporters would protest the arrests on Friday evening outside the ICE field office in St. Albans, Vt., where Balcazar and the woman likely are being held. No information was available on Friday on why Balcazar and his passenger were detained.

ICE is following guidance from a January Trump executive order that broadens enforcement priorities to include people who have been “charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved.”

That takes the basic legal principle of innocent until proven guilty and “stands it on its head,” said James Lyall, ACLU Vermont’s executive director.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said ICE officers arrested the 23-year-old Carrillo after a “targeted vehicle stop” on Wednesday. He is being held pending deportation proceedings.

Carrillo’s arrest bears similarities to the February detention of a Rhode Island man.

Angel Garcia, of Providence, R.I., was detained by immigration authorities when he arrived at Vermont Superior Court in Windsor County on the morning of Feb. 28. He was due to be arraigned on charges related to allegedly having driven under the influence, according to multiple sources.

Garcia had been arrested earlier that month after his vehicle slid into the median of Interstate 89 near Royalton.

According to Andy Stone, the court operations manager at the courthouse in downtown White River Junction, ICE agents met a man that morning as he came through the door shortly after 8 a.m. Stone did not witness the event but learned about it from co-workers at the courthouse.

“They were waiting for him and took him into custody,” Stone said.

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill confirmed that Garcia was taken into custody by ICE without consultation with the county prosecutor’s staff.

He said his office did not reach out to or receive contact from ICE about Garcia in advance. They were not initially aware of the reason Garcia missed his arraignment.

Vermont State Police Maj. Rick Hopkins said no one with the statewide law enforcement agency reached out to federal authorities about Garcia.

Garcia was fingerprinted when he was arrested, and that information was uploaded to a federal database, according to Hopkins. It is possible for federal authorities to flag biometrics linked to an individual, he said.

Hopkins said such detentions are rare in his experience. He could “count on one hand the number of times we have any interaction with immigration things of this nature,” he said.

A spokesperson for ICE confirmed this month that Garcia was picked up for “immigration violations” and was in the agency’s custody at that time. ICE said Garcia’s country of origin is Honduras.

Attempts to reach Garcia have not been successful.

Lyall, of the Vermont ACLU, was not aware of the Windsor County ICE arrest but said he knows of other courthouse arrests across the country.

It is not clear if there has been an increase in ICE detentions in Vermont since the change in federal policy.

“Whether it’s escalating or not is hard to say at this point, but it’s something we’re monitoring very closely,” Lyall said.

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