BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The federal government has agreed not to deport three immigrant activists in Vermont who sued two years after they were arrested, saying they were targeted in retaliation for their activism, according to the settlement filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Vermont.
As part of the settlement in the lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, ICE will also pay $100,000 to be split among the three plaintiffs.
“ICE tried to terrorize us by going after our leaders,” said plaintiff Victor Diaz, a member of Migrant Justice, an advocacy group representing immigrant farmworkers in Vermont, at a rally outside the federal courthouse on Wednesday. He spoke in Spanish as a translator interpreted.
“They tried to divide us by going after our organization. They tried to silence us, but with this settlement we are saying that we will not be silenced," he to cheers among the crowd blocking part of a downtown street.
An email was sent to ICE seeking comment.
During the rally, a driver who wanted to drive through the street blocked by activists holding signs yelled at them to get out of the way, pulled out a machete and from the driver's seat banged it on hood of his vehicle. Leaders urged activists to get out of the way and let the vehicle pass as he zoomed through.
Afterward, Thelma Gomez, of Migrant Justice, said what happened was a clear example of what happens when the people rise up to defend their rights.
“Not everybody's going to like it, but we can't be scared and we can't retreat,” she said through an interpreter.
Burlington Police arrived a short time later and an officer talked with an activist. It wasn't clear whether police pursued the driver.
One of the three plaintiffs, Zully Palacios Rodriguez, said when the lawsuit was filed that she and a fellow Migrant Justice member were arrested by armed undercover agents as they were leaving the group’s office in Burlington in 2017.
Before the arrest, she said, ICE tried to enter her email account and used a confidential informant to spy on the group’s members and gather information about them.
Some Vermont dairy farms employ Mexican farmworkers, many of whom are in the country illegally.