Last week, a group that advocates for undocumented farmworkers in Vermont filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington against three federal agencies that enforce immigration laws.
The activist group Migrant Justice is asking for records related to the arrests of several of their members by Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“As we've laid out in this lawsuit there have been a number of arrests of members and leaders of Migrant Justice who we believe have been targeted because of their involvement as human rights defenders in this state,” said Will Lambek, a staff member at Migrant Justice.
The group is seeking records from the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
When asked about the lawsuit, all three agencies said they do not comment on pending litigation.
“We're requesting any information, any records that these agencies have about the arrest of Migrant Justice members and the communications they have about Migrant Justice as an organization,” Lambek said.
According to Lambek, the group's requests for those records were improperly denied.
“And that's what's forcing us to file this Freedom of Information Act litigation because it's in the public's interest to know what federal agents are doing on the public dime,” he said.
The lawsuit states that “apparent targeting of Migrant Justice and its members has chilled and deterred members' participation and association with Migrant Justice.”
Lambek added that this has created a “climate of fear.”
“People are worried,” he said, “that — in addition to the generalized targeting of immigrants in this country under the Trump Administration — that by being public, by exercising your First Amendment rights to speak up for your civil rights, your civil liberties, your rights as workers, that you could be targeted by ICE or by Border Patrol for arrest, detention and ultimately deportation.”
The three federal agencies named in the lawsuit have 30 days to submit a response.