Crime and Justice

Police investigate harassment of migrant workers

An activist group alleges that a group of people surrounded farmworkers’ homes in Addison County, shouting insults and firing guns.

Migrant Justice has called on police to investigate.

Following publication of the incidents on social media, Vermont State Police announced Tuesday that troopers have been investigating multiple incidents and vandalism on farms and at nearby residences near Bridport over the past three weeks.

Migrant Justice posted on Facebook Monday that for multiple nights, farmworkers’ houses have been surrounded by a group of people who yelled insults, broke windows and air-conditioning units. According to the post, the group also fired guns into the air.

Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice said that groups of people surrounded multiple houses on several nights earlier this month.

“It’s about emotional damage,” Canedo said.

Migrant Justice said after a report was filed that identified someone involved in the group, police responded it “was a drunken act where the person lost control of their actions.”

Another incident happened earlier this week, according to Canedo, when a Migrant Justice organizer visited farmworkers in the same area and had a tense exchange with someone at the farm and was asked to leave. After visiting with farmworkers, he found that his tires were flat. Migrant Justice said there was also a threatening call to their office.

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Canedo said Migrant Justice is concerned about the way police responded to a “vulnerable” population, that is often reluctant to contact law enforcement because of concerns about immigration status.

“It’s unfortunate that people are feeling afraid to call the police and they don’t trust the police,” she said.

In a response to the Migrant Justice post Tuesday, Vermont State Police wrote that troopers based at the New Haven Barracks have been “actively investigating” the incidents over the past three weeks. They wrote that police have been updating the local state’s attorney on the status of the case and are following up on several leads.

In a separate news release Tuesday, Vermont State Police said troopers at the New Haven Barracks have been investigating multiple “suspicious incidents and vandalisms” around farm fields, on farms and at nearby residences.

“Through investigation, it appears that many of the incidents are related and committed by the same individuals,” police said in a statement.

Police say they have identified potential suspects.

They request that anybody with information about the incidents contact Trooper Mae Murdock at (802) 388-4919.

Canedo said that police have been in better communication since the group shared details about the incidents on Facebook. As of Tuesday night, the post had been shared more than 1,300 times.

She said there is a greater need to address harassment and discrimination in Vermont.

“There is a lot to do in Vermont with fighting racism,” Canedo said.

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Veronica Ciambra

The migrant farm workers in Addison County have a vast community of support and admiration. They are hard working tax paying people who do no harm but much good for our community and state. Law enforcement needs to do their job and stop these people harassing farm workers.

sandra bettis

I guess the KKK is alive and well in Vermont.

Kim Fried

Again, SHAME, Vermont!!!

Wayne Curley

Being intoxicated, if that was the case, is no excuse. It just covers up the hate and racism that lies underneath.
This is not a minor infraction. The people that are guilty need to be identified by police and prosecuted.
Minimum penalty – fine, 500 hours of meaningful community service, forfeiture of any firearms (if used) and loss of the right to possess firearms for at least 10 years.

Peggy Larson

Without these farm workers, farms would fail. Mexicans saved my cousin’s farm when he developed Parkinson’s disease. He tried relatives and locals but they didn’t want to work 7 days a week. Why don’t these people stop harassing the workers and go to work on farms themselves? Because they are too lazy.

Davito Martino

This is such a travesty. We immigrants who come to this country work hard to take care of our families. We pay more in taxes than we receive in benefits, meaning the taxes we pay more than cover the cost of things like public education and healthcare.

With very few exceptions (such as access to medical care for victims of human trafficking), undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps.

In addition, most immigrants with lawful status are not entitled to these benefits until they have been in the country for five years or longer. This means that Social Security is often being deducted from immigrants’ paychecks but we cannot access those benefits.

And lastly, we are doing jobs that these cowardly Vermonters do not want to do.

Theresa Lefebvre

Yes, Ms. Bettis, it appears the KKK is alive and well in Vermont. Ignorance abounds. The need for migrant workers exists because Vermont has a very short growing season, the work is back-breaking, the pay is lousy, and no locals want to do it. As a form of “meaningful community service,” these perpetrators should be fined, required to make restitution for the damages they caused, and be required to spend ALL of next spring and summer working at a local farm, for the same pay these migrant workers receive. In addition, they should not be allowed to work at any other jobs during that time. Let’s see how happy they are with the work and the wages. Perhaps this education will make them realize how dependent we are on these migrant workers.

Jerry Kilcourse

Those involved in these cowardly and despicable acts are beyond contempt and should be held accountable. Police need to be more pro active and not just say it “was a drunken act where the person lost control of their actions.” Exactly what did the police do with this supposedly drunken individual?

Brenna Galdenzi

It saddens me to say this, but I’m not at all surprised here in Vermont. I’ve seen too many Confederate flag stickers on pick-up trucks. These are the same ignorant, hateful types who participated in coyote killing contests in Addison county.

The migrant workers should know that there are a lot more of us who welcome them here than not. We will fight for justice.

Casey Jennings

The constant spouting of hate by President Trump and Fox news towards Mexicans is obviously having an effect. We all know about the El Paso massacre by a bigot. I’ve watched people close to me who watch fox news all day everyday turn into hate-filled people. But I will also point out this state has a serious problem with the police not being too motivated to respond to citizens’ complaints. At my place in Lunenburg, I have chronic problems with ATV trespass, a group that comes through the private road drunk periodically, sometimes firing guns into the woods along the way. An individual openly talks around town about how he stole my posted signs (posted because of him). The police say they don’t have time. The police don’t chase ATV’s for safety reasons. VT is becoming a lawless place and the criminals know this and are emboldened by it. I distinctly remember multiple people at the gun bill hearing this past year saying people should be calling the police, but what if they don’t come?

Jason Van Driesche

I find it very disturbing that this kind of Klan-like intimidation would happen in Vermont. This is not simply a case of people getting drunk and losing control of their actions, as the VSP seemed to imply. People don’t go to another person’s residence in a large group and threaten that person verbally and with deadly weapons by accident.

We all need to ask our law enforcement agencies — all the way up to the Attorney General — to pursue all possible avenues for holding the perpetrators of these crimes to account. Their actions were intended to terrorize a highly vulnerable population, and that is a serious crime. They need to be treated as such.

Kenny Keith

As one that has a lot of issues with illegal immigration I on the other hand have no issue with legal migrants who are here to provide for their family’s and help hard working farmers harvest their crops. I’ve worked with these people in the past and have an enormous respect for the work ethic they have. Any reasonable changes that can be made to help them I welcome. Before we start invoking the “KKK & condedrate flags” let’s remember who those people were, democrats. That’s right, there has been a lot of rewriting of history about who the true racists have been and what brought us to the civil war. Stop invoking racism at every turn or we doomed to repeat history.

Miriam Fried

We need to raise money to buy the farm workers some reasonable tools to defend themselves. Personally i prefer something in pump action but who am i to push my preferences on anyone else.

It’s a disgrace that the VSP tried to excuse that lynch mobs action because they were drunk. Makes one wonder if they try to excuse DUI accidents because the drivers were drunk.

Mickey Nowak

The comment about this injustice and coyote killing is a bridge too far and way off subject. The criminal actions of this harassment stand on their own.

Steve Allen

Sure am glad I moved to Tennessee, people don’t behave like that down here.

John Greenberg

The meme that Democrats are rewriting their history about racism needs pushback. Beginning with Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party was indeed the driving force against slavery and for rights for formerly enslaved blacks in its early decades.

But when LBJ decided to push hard for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and similar legislation back in the 60s. southern Democrats began to leave the party, starting (?) with Strom Thurmond. Nixon capitalized on the blowback to LBJ’s laws, adopting his “southern strategy,” and over the decades more and more southern Democrats became Republicans.

It’s no accident that Reagan talked about “welfare queens” and began his campaign in MS. Until the election of Doug Jones, the Democrat most recently elected to the US Senate was Republican Richard Selby, the sitting senior senator who changed parties in the early 1980s.

Democrats began to redeem their dismal racist record in the 60s. When will the GOP do so?

Lisa Winkler

Just ask Kiah Morris how effective the police are in investigating and protecting all people in Vermont. From an NPR report almost one year ago: “Vermont state Rep. Kiah Morris has resigned from office, citing extensive racial harassment and telling The New York Times that the lack of response from local law enforcement has been ‘stunning.’ ”

The police response is too similar to be a coincidence. From the same NPR report: “On Thursday, VTDigger, a nonprofit news site, reported that a group of teenagers banged on the doors of Morris’ home and a neighboring house last week. The police describe the incident as pranks that were not targeting anyone in particular . . . .”

Title 13 : Crimes And Criminal Procedure; Chapter 031 : Discrimination Statute (13 V.S.A. § 1455) lays it out fairly clearly.

The local and state police must be held accountable to their bias in response and follow up as well as the criminals.

Martin Dole

Very sad this is not what Vermont is about!!

Miriam Fried

It sickens me that people try to make incidents like this into an opportunity to push Democrat/Republican politics. The reality is that this stuff has been going on for hundreds of years under the D/R parties and mainstream parties that do not exist any more.

It’s the nature of demagogues of all striped to push fear and hatred of “the other” for political gain.

JamesBerry

Is it known if this harassment was motivated by just race, or perceived immigration status or both? I did not see in article if these victims are minority, or U.S. citizens, or Mexican, or South American, or other. Nobody should be harassed and law enforcement must be left up to authorities, and the harassing perpetrators held accountable and prosecuted. If the victims are, by chance, here working illegally, then authorities should investigate that as well, and deport and charge employers if a crime was committed.

John M Farrell

If and when these despicable people are caught how about having them perform the community service in the form of working in the fields as the migrant workers do. Plus take away their right to own guns.

Anne Ryan

Think there is more beneath the eye going on here. Maybe the victims should be investigated too?? Things can be going on to bring sympathy to them. Just saying..

Harry Sanchez

Harassment and violence are not cool and neither is illegal immigration. VSP needs to investigate and enforce on both fronts. Deport any illegals and arrest employers.

jude hazelton

If these nuisances worked as hard as the people they harass they could have improved their own lives by now.

 

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