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As ICE Calls Montpelier 'Non-Cooperative,' Mayor Defends Policy

The mayor of Montpelier says the city got no warning before Immigration and Customs Enforcement listed the city as non-compliant with federal immigration authorities. Mayor John Hollar says the city’s inclusion on the federal list raises questions about the Trump administration’s process for creating the list.

Montpelier was one of more than 100 communities in the nation listed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as “jurisdictions that have enacted policies which limit cooperation with ICE.”

The city’s policy is to only detain people if there is probable cause for an arrest, which means police in Montpelier won’t honor “detainers” from ICE. A “detainer” is a request from federal authorities asking local officials to detain someone for suspected immigration violations.

Montpelier Mayor Hollar says Montpelier’s policy is not unique in Vermont; there are other cities and towns across the state with similar policies that were not listed by ICE.

“It's worrisome, it's concerning, but as much because of the arbitrary nature of it and the fact that the [U.S.] attorney general's office, the [Trump] administration, don't seem to be grounded in the rule of law and a recognition that they ought to apply, and they have to apply, the Constitution fairly,” Hollar said.

The ICE report that contains the list acknowledges that there may be gaps.

“[T]here may be other non-cooperative jurisdictions not contained in this section of the document,” ICE wrote, noting that the list was based on “public announcements, news report statements, publicly disclosed policies, and/or information given directly to ICE personnel.”

This week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said so-called “sanctuary cities” would lose their federal funding, but Hollar says that won’t make Vermont’s capital city change its policies.

“Well certainly I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s not going to force us to reconsider the actions that we’ve taken. We’re very confident in the decisions we’ve made, but again concerned that the federal government and the Trump administration will use their power and their authority to act in ways that are vindictive, that are unconstitutional. So that is of great concern.”

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan defended Montpelier’s policies and suggested that the city’s presence on the list is actually a sign of sound local policy.

“I think what it says is that the city of Montpelier follows the fourth amendment of the [United States] Constitution, which means this: You are not going to seize or detain somebody without probable cause,” Donovan said Tuesday. “That is a constitutional right. That is what the fourth amendment is about. And the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is not about limiting individual rights, it’s putting limits on government.”

At the state level, Gov. Phil Scott says he’s confident that a new law to limit cooperation between Vermont law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities will not threaten the state’s federal funding.

Sessions publicly criticized similar legislation in Maryland on Monday, but the Trump administration has not specifically addressed the new Vermont law.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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