Activists have called for an emergency demonstration Tuesday morning to protest the Chittenden County Sheriff's Department over its role in the recent detainment of a 21-year-old farmworker.
Advocacy group Migrant Justice has accused Deputy Jeffry Turner of violating the department's policies on fair and impartial policing during a November 22 traffic stop of a car along Interstate 89.
Turner pulled over the vehicle for speeding and asked its passengers to provide identification. When Luis Ulloa, who lives in Franklin County, presented a Mexican passport, the deputy photographed the document, contacted U.S. Border Patrol agents and prevented the vehicle from leaving until they arrived, Migrant Justice said in a press release Monday.
Ulloa was then transported to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in New Hampshire, where the group says he is being held without bail pending deportation proceedings.
Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin said in a written statement that while his investigation remains open, a “preliminary” probe has found that Turner followed protocol.
Immigration arrests are nothing new in Vermont, but federal data suggest that border enforcement has intensified under President Donald Trump, prompting undocumented workers to live in a state of fear that they could land in jail at any time.
Fair and impartial policing policies were created with such fears in mind, discouraging cops from collaborating with immigration authorities in most situations. The sheriff's department's policy says that officers cannot facilitate the detention of anyone known or suspected to be undocumented, nor can they “prolong” stops for the purpose of allowing federal authorities to investigate immigration matters.
McLaughlin would not answer questions about the case over the phone, referring Seven Days to his statement. But he wrote that Turner's “subsequent discussions” with the passengers led him to believe that “he had a reasonable suspicion, based on a totality of the circumstances, that there had been a violation of federal criminal laws by some of the occupants."
Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice organizer, said the sheriff’s findings are "not borne out by the facts."
McLaughlin's statement doesn't specify what federal crimes Turner suspected the passengers of committing. It also doesn't say why Turner inquired about Ulloa's immigration status in the first place.
None of the three other occupants in the vehicle were detained. Ulloa's cousin, the car's driver, was given a warning for speeding and ticketed for not having a license. A licensed driver came to the scene to drive them home.
Migrant Justice is now working to obtain more information about the case, filing a records request seeking radio logs about who Turner spoke with prior to the arrival of the federal authorities, which Lambek said should provide further details about the deputy's actions.
Lambek also provided Seven Days an email showing that on the day the sheriff’s department received the group's records request, McLaughlin urged his deputy to contact an attorney about the case “ASAP.”
Migrant Justice said Ulloa has worked on Vermont and New York dairy farms for the last four years, sending money home to his mother and siblings in Mexico. Ulloa's cousin, Juan Ulloa, plans to speak about what happened during the traffic stop at Tuesday’s rally, Lambek said.
The event is scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. in front of the Chittenden County Sheriff's Department on Ethan Allen Drive in South Burlington.