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Migrant Activists Allege Chittenden County Sheriff Deputy Violated Policy

Migrant Justice protest
Henry Epp
Activists with the immigrant rights group Migrant Justice protested the detention of a 21-year-old farmworker outside the office of the Chittenden County Sheriff on Tuesday.

The activist group Migrant Justice says a Chittenden County Sheriff's deputy violated policy by working with U.S. Border Patrol after a traffic stop last month. The organization protested Tuesday in front of the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of a detained migrant worker now facing possible deportation.

According to Migrant Justice, Deputy Jeffry Turner held a vehicle on I-89 after 21-year-old farmworker Luis Ulloa handed Turner a Mexican passport during the stop. The group says Turner then contacted Border Patrol officers, who detained Ulloa.

Speaking through an interpreter, Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar said Turner held the car for about two hours before Border Patrol arrived. He said the group believes that detention violated the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy, which requires law enforcement to serve and protect people, regardless of immigration status.

"Our community is very upset," Balcazar said Monday afternoon. "We're going to go express that and call on the sheriff to take responsibility for this action, for this violation of their department's own policy." 

In a statement Monday, Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin said he's reviewing the incident and believes Turner did not violate the office's policy. McLaughlin said the deputy had "reasonable suspicion" that occupants of the car had broken federal laws when he contacted Border Patrol.

But on Tuesday, Migrant Justice released a response to McLaughlin's statement. The group countered the sheriff's comment that policy was followed, saying that assertion "is not borne out by the facts." Migrant Justice went on to say they "expect a transparent investigation into the incident and full accountability for any violation of the policy."

Luis Ulloa's cousin Juan Ulloa was driving the car when the traffic stop took place. Speaking through an interpreter at Tuesday's protest, Juan Ulloa said he disagreed with the deputy's actions.

"He took my registration and insurance back to his patrol car. And then when he came back, he asked for IDs from everybody else in the car," Juan Ulloa said. "And I don't think he had any reason to do that because it was me who was driving; I was the one who was responsible. If he wanted to give me a ticket, if he wanted to tow the car, well that's OK, but it's on me, not on anybody else."

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
Anthony Rodriguez Jr was VPR Fall intern in 2019 for the newsroom.
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