Federal immigration authorities used a civilian informant to infiltrate meetings of Migrant Justice, which advocates for Vermont’s immigrant farmworkers, the group contended as it filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Wednesday November 14, 2018.
Migrant Justice alleges that group members were targeted and detained as part of a national effort against immigrant rights advocates.
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has been helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to engage in an “unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest and detain” farm worker activists, Migrant Justice said in a statement. Its suit names ICE, DHS and the DMV as defendants.
Documents obtained through public records requests show that the DMV forwarded the plaintiffs’ personal information to ICE when they applied for the state’s driver privilege card, the group asserts. Immigration enforcement officers also engaged in the electronic surveillance of one Migrant Justice member, the suit alleges.
About 40 Migrant Justice members have been arrested in the last two years, and the majority of them have been deported, said Will Lambek, the group’s spokesman. At least 10 of those arrested are believed to have been targeted because of their activism, Lambek said.
The plaintiffs seek a federal injunction to stop the defendants from “targeting, surveilling, infiltrating, spreading misinformation, arresting and detaining Migrant Justice members,” as well as prohibiting DMV employees from sharing information with federal immigration enforcement agencies, according to a statement from Migrant Justice.