Advocates Protest Immigration Policies

May 2, 2017

Marchers in Burlington demonstrated against the White House’s immigration policies during a May Day March for Dignity yesterday.  The protesters gathered at the Federal Building.

The march in Burlington started at a small park across from the Vermont Workers Center. Migrant Justice organizer Abel Luna told those gathered that they follow the footsteps of past activists who created the May Day tradition of advocating for worker and human rights.  “We need to continue to fight for freedom. We must continue to fight to secure rights that our working brothers and sisters fought and died for 130 years ago. And today we’re reminded that we need to fight together, to continue to speak to each other, and that we need to stay strong and we need to believe in each other.”  
                                                                                                                                                                                             
With gypsum monarch butterflies attached to poles symbolizing nature’s migrants from Mexico to the U.S., the marchers wound their way through downtown Burlington and the Church Street Marketplace.  After delivering postcards to Ben & Jerry’s demanding the company implement a farmworker Milk with Dignity program, they reached the federal building where they demonstrated against the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Ezlerh Orste stepped up to tell the crowd that he is undocumented and unafraid.  He came to Texas when he was 9 and now lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.  "I was born in Mexico and I am undocumented and unafraid. I’m here today because this is the most important thing we can do is unite each other."

Orste commented after the rally.  "In Brattleboro, Vermont after Trump got elected a lot of us activists got together and we’re like what are we going to do? One of the things was we needed to create a place where people can get information about what’s happening in the community.  So we created this website. It’s wecantogether.net.  It’s hard to know the reality what are people of color are living here in Vermont and what poor people are living here in Vermont.  But the best thing that we can do is bring our community together."

In mid-March ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detained Migrant Justice spokesman Enrique Balcazar. He was released after 10 days.  He stood in front of Burlington’s federal building and told the crowd his story through an interpreter.   "Me being a public leader having my face in the spotlight they came after me and they retaliated against me for my leadership."

Balcazar believes immigrant advocates are being targeted by federal authorities.  "I was arrested because of my human rights leadership, plain and simple. Before I was arrested by ICE I knew I was a target because they had made threats against me.  And this is what’s happening in Vermont and around the country right now. People are being targeted because of our activism. And when I was detained I saw with my own eyes how many people are being locked up right now.  Not people with criminal records like Trump is saying.  It’s just that we have a broken system and they’re going after those of us who are standing up and saying something about it."

The May Day march in Burlington was sponsored by the Vermont Human Rights Council.