2017-02-16 / Front Page

Scott Wants Law to Block State from Helping to Enforce U.S. Immigration Law

Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, in collaboration with Attorney General TJ Donovan, a Democrat, introduced legislation last week that the Governor claims will help Vermont “safeguard the Constitutional rights of Vermonters,” while ensuring the State of Vermont takes a unified position when dealing with the Federal Government, and supporting law enforcement in its continued compliance with federal law.

The Governor was joined in this effort by Attorney General TJ Donovan, Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, both Democrats and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive, along with Sen. Dick Sears, Democrat, co-sponsors of the legislation, and members of the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet.

The Governor introduced legislation to address what he called “concerns over Federal
Government overreach,” including the “stated policy to request State and local law enforcement agencies perform immigration enforcement functions” under the direction and supervision of the Federal Department of Homeland Security, at what he called “the State’s expense.” 

“Despite how you may feel about the contents of the President’s Executive Orders, it
is increasingly clear that many elements in the orders have the potential to violate the
Constitutional rights of American citizens, and infringe on States’ rights afforded by the Tenth
Amendment,” said Gov. Scott. 

“This legislation serves to protect Vermont and Vermonters against some of these potential violations, and to reassure our communities and citizens of their safety, and security here in
Vermont.”

The legislation stipulates that the decision of whether to take on immigration enforcement
functions of the Federal Government rests in the hands of the Governor. Further, it aims to
promote public safety by protecting Vermont residents from collection and dissemination of personally identifying information for the purposes of establishing a mandatory federal registry or database. Specifically, the bill defines this personally identifiable information
to include sex, gender orientation, gender identity, marital status, race, color, religion,
national origin, immigration status, age or disability. The bill prohibits collection of information
regarding religious beliefs, practices or affiliation for the purposes of a registry, and the
use of State or local resources to assist in creating or enforcing any federal program for the purposes of a registry.

The Governor further claimed that the bill was written to ensure compliance with federal
law and the legitimate State interest in promoting a State and communities where residents feel free to engage with law enforcement and other government authorities without being singled out based on protected characteristics.

During a press conference last Thursday, Gov. Scott explained, “this bill has been carefully crafted through a consensus building process to confirm Vermont remains compliant with federal law, that we would not be established as a ‘sanctuary state,’ and to address the needs and recommendations of our law enforcement partners.”

At the same time, the Governor claimed that the legislation carefully avoids using the term “sanctuary state” so Vermont is not at risk of losing federal funding due to the legislation.
“This legislation codifies what is best about Vermont – protecting individual freedoms and policing at the local level – Vermonters protecting Vermonters,” said Attorney General Donovan.

The legislation was developed by the Office of the Governor and Attorney General’s Office, with consensus from lawmakers and the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet, which includes stakeholders from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Chiefs of Police, State’s Attorneys and Sheriff’s
Offices, Office of the Defender General, and Agencies of Transportation, Agriculture and
Human Services.

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