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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Scott Urges Lawmakers To Act Now On Immigration Bill

Bob Kinzel
Gov. Phil Scott, at his Statehouse press conference on Wednesday, distanced himself from the Trump Administration on immigration policy.

Gov. Phil Scott says the Legislature needs to act soon to blunt the impact of a new Trump Administration policy on immigration.

A new immigration order issued this week by the President Trump expands the number of undocumented workers who could be subject to deportation.

Under the Obama Administration, a person would have to be convicted of a "serious" crime to be a priority for deportation. The new Trump approach broadens the definition to any criminal offense including "the abuse" of federal benefit programs.

On Thursday, the Vermont Senate will consider a bill that limits the state's involvement in any immigration crackdown.

The legislation gives the governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with federal immigration officials.

Scott says that's important because he doesn't support a federal plan to ask local and state police to take part in deportation raids.

"I think that bill is important to Vermont,” said Scott. “I think it does set the tone and I believe it does offer us Constitutional protections, so I think it's a level of importance that I would say is very high."  

The bill also blocks federal officials from obtaining personal information from Vermont police concerning a person's race, religion, or sexual orientation.

"I think that bill is important to Vermont. I think it does set the tone and I believe it does offer us Constitutional protections." - Gov. Phil Scott

The governor says he wants Vermonters to understand that there's an important constitutional principle at stake.

"It's not just about this one issue,” said Scott. “It's about, as I've said before, this is about what I see as federal overreach in terms of our Constitution and we can't pick and choose which part of the Constitution we protect; we need to protect all of it."  

Scott says the bill is also designed to send a clear message to Vermont's undocumented workers.

"The fear and anxiety that many are facing again whether it's in the agricultural community or whether it's in other parts of the state is real and we seek to calm those fears and alleviate that," said Scott. 

About 1,000 undocumented workers are employed on Vermont dairy farms and they're considered to be a vital part of the dairy industry.

Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts says his agency is putting together a contingency plan in the event that some of these workers are deported.

"We'd have to call together some people pretty quickly and help them get the cows milked and chores done." - Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts, who is developing a contingency plan if undocumented dairy workers are deported

"We'd have to call together probably some volunteers, some people, maybe some neighboring farms could lend a hand for a few days,” said Tebbetts. “But yeah, we'd have to call together some people pretty quickly and help them get the cows milked and chores done."

Tebbetts says the contingency plan will also explore the possibility of training Vermont prison inmates to work on the state's dairy farms.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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