BURLINGTON — Activists are calling for the release of a farmworker who is the second unauthorized immigrant in a month to be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while headed to a Vermont court appearance.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said ICE officers arrested Cesar Alexis Carrillo-Sanchez, 23, after a “targeted vehicle stop” Wednesday and are holding him pending deportation proceedings.
He was on his way to a hearing stemming from his 2016 DUI arrest when he was detained outside the Chittenden County courthouse.
Records provided by the group Migrant Justice show that prosecutors were planning to dismiss the charge at the hearing, for what the advocates said was lack of evidence. The dismissal went forward without the defendant there, advocates said.
The arrest comes after another in late February, when a Rhode Island resident was detained as he arrived for his arraignment on state charges at the court in Windsor County, according to court staff.
Migrant Justice and the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union say the Burlington ICE arrest is the result of a January executive order from President Donald Trump that broadens enforcement priorities. The list of priorities now includes people who have been “charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved.”
“By targeting people charged but not convicted of any crime, Trump’s deportation policy takes the legal principle that people are innocent until proven guilty and stands it on its head,” said James Lyall, ACLU of Vermont executive director.
“ICE has long stayed away from courthouses and other sensitive locations, for good reason: If people are afraid to go to court, our system of justice is compromised. This arrest isn’t just an attack on the immigrant community — it’s also an attack on the legal system itself,” Lyall added.
ICE officials did not answer a question about whether the latest arrest arose from Trump’s new order.
Carrillo, as the Vermont court and Migrant Justice identified him, was with his wife, Lymarie Deida, at the time of his arrest, the group said. He and Deida, who is a U.S. citizen, have a 4-year-old daughter, and Deida is pregnant with their second child.
“When they arrested Alex, they took away a father, a husband, a human being,” Deida said in a Migrant Justice statement, using the name he goes by.
Carrillo-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen, claims to have entered the United States unlawfully in 2010, according to Shawn Neudauer, a public affairs officer for the Department of Homeland Security.
Since coming to this country, his allies said, Carrillo has spent most of his time working on Vermont dairy farms. He is active with Migrant Justice, the organization said.
Migrant Justice has helped advocate for better farm labor practices, the state’s fair and impartial policing law, and driver’s privilege cards, which don’t require proof of legal immigration status.
The group has had success gaining release, pending deportation, for its members or other farmworkers detained by ICE. Last year, a petition drive and pressure on Vermont’s congressional delegation helped win the release of activist Victor Diaz.
“We are calling for Alex’s immediate release and for ICE to stop his deportation,” said Will Lambek, with Migrant Justice. “This is an attack against the entire community of immigrant farmworkers in Vermont. Now is the time to stand in solidarity with Alex and his family against Trump’s agenda of mass deportation.”
This latest incident has similarities to the February detention of the Rhode Island man.
Angel Garcia, of Providence, was detained by immigration authorities when he arrived at Vermont Superior Court in Windsor County on the morning of Feb. 28. He was due to be arraigned on charges related to alleged driving under the influence, according to multiple sources.
Garcia had been arrested earlier in February after his vehicle slid into the median of Interstate 89 near Royalton.
According to Andy Stone, the court operations manager at the courthouse in downtown White River Junction, ICE agents met a person that morning as he came through the door shortly after 8 a.m. Stone did not witness the event but learned about it from colleagues at the court.
“They were waiting for him and took him into custody,” Stone said.
Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill confirmed that Garcia was taken into custody by ICE without consultation with the county prosecutor’s staff.
He said his office did not reach out to or receive contact from ICE about Garcia in advance. They were not initially aware of the reason Garcia missed his arraignment.
Maj. Rick Hopkins of the Vermont State Police said no one with the statewide law enforcement agency reached out to federal authorities about Garcia.
Garcia was fingerprinted when he was arrested, and information from that is uploaded to a federal database, according to Hopkins. It is possible for federal authorities to flag biometrics linked to that individual, he said.
Hopkins said the Vermont officer who arrested Garcia received a voicemail from ICE sometime after his shift that day ended. The officer returned the call when he returned to work.
Hopkins said such detentions are rare in his experience. He could “count on one hand the number of times we have any interaction with immigration things of this nature,” he said.
A spokesperson for ICE confirmed this month that Garcia was picked up for “immigration violations” and was in the agency’s custody at that time. ICE reported that Garcia’s country of origin is Honduras.
Attempts to reach Garcia have not been successful.
Lyall, of the Vermont ACLU, was not aware of the Windsor County ICE arrest but said he knows of other courthouse arrests across the country.
He said the group is wary of local law enforcement’s role in any immigration-related arrests of people facing criminal charges.
It is not clear if there has been an increase in ICE detentions in Vermont since the change in federal policy.
“Whether it’s escalating or not is hard to say at this point, but it’s something we’re monitoring very closely,” Lyall said.