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Advocates For Undocumented Farmworkers Arrested By ICE In Burlington

Courtesy of Migrant Justice
Enrique Balcazar, left, seen here at an event in June 2016, was arrested in Burlington Friday according to the advocacy group Migrant Justice.

Leaders of the advocacy group Migrant Justice say ICE agents arrested a former Vermont dairy farmworker and another advocate in Burlington Friday afternoon.

Enrique Balcazar has been an outspoken advocate for undocumented farmworkers in Vermont. He came to the United States from Mexico when he was a teenager, and worked for a number of years on Vermont dairy farms, before becoming an organizer with Migrant Justice.

Balcazar is also a member of the Task Force on Immigrationcreated by Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan to advise him on the state's legal authority when it comes to recent executive ordersissued by President Donald Trump.  

Will Lambek with Migrant Justice says Balcazar and his passenger, Zully Palacios, were arrested while he was driving down Shelburne Road in Burlington. Lambek says Balcazar called him as he was being arrested, and Lambek arrived on the scene and witnessed Balcazar and Palacios being taken away in separate, unmarked vehicles. 

Palacios, 23, is from Peru, and works with Migrant Justice.  VT Digger reports she was arrested for overstaying her visa. Lambek says Balcazar does not have a criminal record.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, along with Rep. Peter Welch, issued a joint statement Monday expressing "serious concerns" with the recent arrests of these farmworker advocates and several farmworkers. 

"Instead of focusing on removing those people who pose a threat to public safety or national security, the Trump Administration is targeting all undocumented persons, including the people that help keep our dairy farms and rural economy afloat," the statement reads.  

Migrant Justice leaders say they staged a protest outside the Immigration and Custom Enforcement offices in St. Albans Friday, where they believe Balcazar and Palacios were taken. The two were later transferred to the Strafford County detention facility in Dover, N.H., where they are currently being held in ICE custody.

This is the second arrest in as many days. Thursday, 23-year-old Alex Carrillo was arrested by plainclothes officers near the Chittenden County courthouse in Burlington according to Migrant Justice.

This post has been updated on March 21, 2017 to reflect that ICE agents also arrested activist Zully Palacios, and to include an excerpt from the joint statement from Vermont's Congressional delegation.

Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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