A representative from Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Local 22 & Local 44 News the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations, along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, conducted a targeted enforcement action at the Days Inn in Colchester last Thursday.
The statement adds “14 men allegedly working on a nearby construction site were arrested for immigration violations” and “the unlawfully present men are of varying national origins.”
Migrant Justice said it’s the largest action of its kind in recent memory by federal agents.
A representative from Governor Phil Scott’s office said “This is concerning. We certainly still need more information, and will work to get that from the federal government.”
Migrant Justice spokesperson Will Lambek says his human rights organization was briefed on the situation.
“Most of them are now being held at a prison in New Hampshire where they’re facing removal proceedings. A couple workers are still here in Vermont where they’re facing additional legal proceedings,” said Lambek.
Lambek would not elaborate on the construction company, or if the project was state or local in nature.
One person picked up in the raid is Luis Suarez-Lopez. Suarez-Lopez was in U.S. District Court Tuesday, where cameras are not allowed.
Authorities say he was caught in the country illegally for the fourth time.
“We would certainly say that somebody who isn’t a threat to their community, who has ties to their community, they should be able to be free and back in their community in order to allow the fight to stay in this country,” said Lambek.
However, the government made a case Suarez-Lopez doesn’t have ties to Vermont, other than an alleged job at the construction site.
The judge ordered Suarez-Lopez into the custody of the U.S. Marshal pending a probable cause hearing next month.
The judge said Suarez-Lopez was too much of a flight risk, and no set of conditions would ensure he would reappear in court.
The case comes at the same time as a national political conversation around immigration is making headlines.
“Because we see what federal deportation agencies are able to do with the money they currently have,” said Lambek.
There are some who ask the question, why not just try to go through the steps to become a legal citizen?
Enrique Balcazar moved from Mexico to Vermont when he was 17.
Lambek translated for him; Balcazar explained those in his community wish it was that easy.
“Our community has long fought for comprehensive immigration reform that would resolve our country’s problem with immigration and create a fair system,” said Lambek.
Balcazar says actions like last week’s raid put people like him on edge.
“And where there have been advances in providing protections for immigrants such as the DACA program, that’s been swept out from under us, because they’re playing games with our lives in Congress right now. We are at the mercy of these political games,” said Lambek.
The property owner of the Days Inn told Local 22 & Local 44 off camera they had no control over the incident, and knew nothing about it.