The recent arrest of two illegal immigrants following a routine traffic stop in Vermont sparked protests and won the attention of the governor’s office.
The controversy began after state police stopped a speeding car on Interstate 89 in Middlesex. The driver of the vehicle provided proper identification and was not given a citation, but during the stop, the officers involved began to suspect the cars’ two passengers were not in the country legally. The police called U.S. Border Patrol agents, who took the passengers into custody and checked their citizenship status, determining they were illegal immigrants.
After being arrested, the men were taken to Middlesex barracks for processing. One of them, Danilo Lopez, has since been identified as a leader of the Vermont Farm Workers, a prominent immigration reform advocacy group. Supporters who learned of his detention gathered outside the barracks and formed a human barrier when U.S. Border Patrol escorted the detainees outside. Three of the protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct.
Lopez and the other passenger have been released and face a future court date, when they will answer charges of being in the country illegally.
Vermont’s first-term Democratic governor, Pete Shumlin, has ordered an internal investigation to ensure state police procedures do not encourage racial profiling.
According to the Federation for Immigration Reform, most of Vermont’s immigrant population as of 2006 was from Canada or Europe, with a large contingent from Yugoslavia.