SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vermont (CNN) — Protesters say a Vermont sheriff’s deputy violated policies intended to protect migrant farmworkers from being targeted by police.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of Migrant Justice supporters gathered outside the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Office in South Burlington, Vt.
The protest comes on the heels of a traffic stop last month that resulted in a migrant farmworker being held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility.
A sheriff’s deputy pulled over Juan Ulloa, 21, for going 80 mph in a 55-mph zone on Interstate 89.
Through a translator, Ulloa told the crowd that Deputy Jeffery Turner asked him for ID, and when Ulloa didn’t have it, the deputy asked the passengers in the car, including Ulloa’s cousin Luis.
“And I don’t think he had any reason to do that because it was me who was driving,” Ulloa said. “I was the one who was responsible.”
The sheriff’s department declined on-camera interviews but Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin said in a statement the deputy only did that because he wanted to find out if someone else in the car could drive it instead.
After that, Turner said he had reasonable suspicion that some of the occupants of the car had violated federal law.
So the deputy notified the Border Patrol, and Ulloa was detained.
Migrant Justice, a migrant advocacy group, told WCAX that the fair and impartial policing policy should have prevented that from happening.
“Under the policy, those things aren’t allowed,” said Enrique Balcazar, a Migrant Justice representative. “They can’t detain you for additional time just to let federal immigration officers come and detain you.”
McLaughlin disagrees, saying, “His decision to involve federal authorities is consistent with the provisions of that policy”.
WCAX asked Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan what the policy does and doesn’t say.
“the facts seem to be in dispute,” he said.
Donovan said he wants to see the investigation play out, but did note there is nothing that prohibits police from disclosing information to the feds.
However, he said there is one “bright-line” rule, that police don’t get to ask about a person’s legal status.
“Can somebody say, ‘Can anybody else drive here?’ Of course, you can say that. Can you ask where they’re from and get into immigration and citizenship? No, you can’t.”
Migrant Justice says they want to see an investigation into whether the department acted correctly.
“The Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department has destroyed his life. They have cut his dreams short,” Balcazar said.
The Chittenden County Sheriff says the investigation is ongoing.
The case could ultimately go to the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council for review. If it determines that there was a violation, the deputy could face discipline.