Vermont Senate Passes Immigration Bill In 30-0 Vote

Feb 23, 2017

In a unanimous 30-0 vote, the Vermont Senate has advanced legislation that's designed to blunt part of the impact of new immigration policies of the Trump Administration. 

During the debate, backers of the bill made it very clear what the legislation does and does not do.

The legislation is in response to a new federal immigration order that expands the number of undocumented workers who can be deported.

Previous orders specified that an individual can be deported if they've been convicted of a "serious" crime. The new order says deportation can occur if a person is guilty of any crime.

The Vermont Senate bill gives the governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with federal immigration officials. Gov. Phil Scott says this is a key provision because he doesn't want local or state police to take part in deportation raids.

Caledonia Sen. Joe Benning said the bill was not "a shot across the bow" of the Trump Administration but should be viewed as a statement about Vermont values.

"We recognize that this goes far beyond any one individual serving in the White House or on the fifth floor of the Pavilion Office building,” said Benning. "[It] reestablishes who were are as a state and who we expect our federal government to be." 

Senate President Tim Ashe said it was very important that every senator voted for the bill.

"It suggests that at a time where there's so much polarization, people of good faith, good conscience ... can put aside party politics, join together and unite to send a conceptual message." — Senate President Tim Ashe

"It suggests that at a time where there's so much polarization, people of good faith, good conscience, protective of our Constitution, inclusive with our values, can put aside party politics, join together and unite to send a conceptual message," said Ashe.

Senate Judiciary chairman Dick Sears reminded his colleagues that the scope of the bill is quite limited and will not affect federal efforts to deport undocumented workers in Vermont.

"If the federal government decided to deport individuals in Vermont, we might not like it, we might not agree with it, but Vermont can't get in the way of that,” said Sears. “Immigration is a federal responsibility."

The measure will come up for final approval in the Senate on Friday. Sears says he's hopeful that the House will put the legislation on a fast track so that it can become law in a matter of weeks.