A migrant rights advocacy group protested outside US Senator Patrick Leahy’s office in Burlington Friday morning in response to the detainment of one of its leaders.
Migrant farmworker and activist Victor Diaz, 24, was detained in Stowe, Vt. Thursday.
The ralliers delivered a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy’s office in Burlington, asking him to urge discretion when prosecuting the man, it says, is leading the fight against migrant injustice in Vermont.
“We’re going to keep fighting for the freedom of Victor who is a human rights leader in our community,” said a Diaz supporter.
“Our resources are being used wrongly to pursue individuals like him, when there are others out there that really do need to be pursued,” said Robert Wright, a friend of Diaz.
Wright calls Diaz “low-hanging fruit” and “easy to catch,” because of his notoriety.
Diaz has been a vocal part in many Migrant Justice efforts, including the fight against migrant farmworker abuse and the legalization of driver privilege cards.
He was also featured in a New York Times article about improving wages and working conditions for farmworkers.
“It’s a kind of community terrorism to go in and snatch decent caring human beings just because their picture has been on the New York Times and they happen to be brown and they happen to be migrant workers,” said Sylvia Knight, a friend of Diaz.
Protest participants were unsure of how long Diaz has been in the states, saying it was at least 5 years.
A spokesperson from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Diaz is a citizen of Mexico and has a criminal record in Vermont.
“Garcia-Diaz is an ICE enforcement priority as a result of his November 2015 DUI conviction in Vermont. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings,” said ICE spokesperson Daniel Modricker.
His supporters though, want to prevent that removal.
“He has been an incredibly important leader in the human rights struggle in Vermont and it seems ridiculous that somebody who is so productive and so constructive for important struggles and human rights battles in Vermont is being picked off by immigration officials,” said Lee Schlenker, a Middlebury College student who has worked with Diaz on activism efforts.
In an email to Local 22 & Local 44, David Carle, press secretary of Sen. Leahy, said his staff has been making inquiries about the alleged incident since learning about it this morning.