Senate committee advances bill challenging Trump immigration orders

Dick Sears
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington. Photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger

A bill crafted in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump on immigration is expected to be on the Senate floor next week.

The five-member Senate Judiciary Committee approved S.79 with unanimous support Friday.

Committee chair Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said it was one of the fastest review processes in the committee’s history.

The legislation, introduced late last week, is backed by a broad coalition of Vermont officials, including Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Progressive/Democrat Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Democrat Attorney General TJ Donovan, and leadership from all three parties in the Legislature.

The bill would restrict the federal government from mobilizing state and local law enforcement to enforce civil immigration laws without the consent of the governor. It would also block participation in a Muslim registry.

The bill would restrict public agencies in Vermont from collecting personal information for the creation of a Muslim registry, including an individual’s religious beliefs and national origin and bars state agencies from sharing personally identifying information with the federal government.

There was some concern that the bill might impede other transfers of information to the federal government, such as for a federal database used for background checks on firearm purchases.

The legislation would require the governor to sign off before local law enforcement agents could be deputized to enforce immigration law through an agreement with the federal government.

The committee added language that the governor can make those decisions in consultation with the state attorney general.

Law enforcement agencies would be permitted to enter into an agreement without the governor’s approval when a state of emergency has been declared.

Through discussions in committee, lawmakers and advisers wanted to ensure the legislation achieved the goals set out by the administration and legislative leaders, while “making sure we were clear that it would withstand any constitutional questions,” Sears said.

Gov. Phil Scott said Friday the speed with which the committee took up the legislation illustrates that the issue is important.

“I think this shows the level of importance to Vermonters across the spectrum,” Scott said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re Progressive or Republican or Democrat … I think we want to protect our constitutional rights,” he said.

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  • Thomas Watkin

    I hope this bill becomes law. Here in Bradford we have two very dedicated police officers paid for by the property tax dollars of town residents. I doubt anyone in Bradford wants to see the work of these officers diverted to assisting the cruel and inhumane roundups that are already beginning in other parts of this country.

  • Don Dixon

    While this is nice and symbolic and Vermonty and all, but tell me again how this is going to lower my taxes?

    • Bruce Wilkie

      Some things are more important than taxes-like fighting against tyranny.

      • Jerry Kilcourse

        I agree Bruce…police state tactics have no place in free society. The attacks on the press is another First Amendment concern.

    • Barry Kade

      If lower taxes are all that matter to you, the answer is that it will prevent your hard earned Vermont tax dollars being used for purposes not consistent with the will of the vast majority of Vermonters and allow law enforcement to focus on what they are paid by us to do.

      • Jon Corrigan

        Is that the standard now? No more use of tax dollars unless a ‘vast majority of Vermonters’ agrees with it? That could probably work well in a number of areas.

      • Ritva Burton

        Was there a vote by “vast majority of Vermonters” to follow this path of ignoring federal laws?? Guess I missed it. Let’s see where this “vast majority of Vermonters” stand when the federal tax dollars stop flowing into Vermont and add to the problem of VT being unaffordable.

  • Bruce Wilkie

    Seventy-five years ago our country decided it would be a good idea to round up hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans, and place them in internment (concentration) camps. Most were held incommunicado for three years or more. Their property was seized by the government, and most lost their homes, so when they were finally released, they had nowhere to go.
    Is our current government blind to history, and bound to a policy that would repeat this horrible tragedy, an inhumane stain on our past?
    We must stand against the wholesale vilification of people who are not JUST LIKE US.
    Otherwise we risk becoming JUST LIKE the countries we have fought against because of their destruction of human rights.
    We must fight the descent into fascism that “our dear leader” would lead us into.

  • Michael Olcott

    If enforcing federal laws is such a huge concern then perhaps this should have been expanded to ignore ALL federal laws. Otherwise this is simply playing politics with our security.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    We tread on dangerous ground when state entities pick and choose or openly defy established federal laws for regional philosophical reasons. We have a cooperative national database of persons who are being sought by both the states and the federal govt called the NCIC. If a person is wanted for a criminal violation such as a case of domestic violence, they can be arrested anywhere in the country after just a casual encounter with law enforcement. If some backwoods jurisdiction in Idaho “feels that a man should be able to maintain discipline by any reasonable means” and refuses to hold someone for that offense, how would your average Vermont liberal feel about that? If a person is a fugitive after being suspected in the murder of a person of color and gets pulled over for speeding in rural Alabama and is sent on their way because the offense is not deemed serious by the locals, would that be acceptable? When someone is on a federal list for deportation, that should not be second-guessed by local or state law enforcement either.

  • Elena Littlebug

    This bill will protect racist law-enforcement agents from any accusation that they target minorities at a greater rate than their white counterparts.

    This is a failure.