Migrant Support Growing in Addison County

In response to recent deportations of Addison County farm workers, many seek to help. Come to Addison County Migrant Ally check-in meetings on third Wednesdays of the month, 4:30 pm in CVUUS Fenn House. Follow initiatives here or by joining the Migrant Ally email list (contact office@cvuus.org).

At the July 19 check-in meeting, attorney Emily Joselson, James Lyall, Executive Director of the ACLU-VT, and Emily’s partner, Wanda Otero-Weaver would like to have a coordinated discussion about marshaling legal resources to support farmers and farm workers as the needs explode.  We hope to coordinate with Migrant Justice to develop a real, coordinated legal action plan.  We’ll prepare for outreach at Addison County Fair & Field Days (Rights & Democracy allowing us to share their table) and hear updates on several in the initiatives below. Refer to Migrant Minutes May Migrant April Minutes and Migrant minutes March 2017.


“How Can We Help?” Project: Several recognized that we needed to ask migrants what they need and developed a card and flyer where they could see a menu of options and leave the card with us or call and text a contact on the flyer to get help.  Contact Veronica Ciambra (802-578-8696 or vciambra@gmail.com) to learn how she took the lead on this and developed it in coordination with others. Here’s the latest draft: How to Help Card

English Language Practice: Many are working to meet this great need.

1) At Open Door Clinic: Volunteers help with translation of and completion of forms at their sites.

2) On farms: Several are visiting farmworkers and providing language services by tutoring in English or translating English forms or instructions to Spanish and teaching them their rights. Contact Veronica Ciambra (802-578-8696 or vciambra@gmail.com) to learn how she has done this and accompany her on a lesson or connect with other migrants seeking practice speaking English. You can check in and debrief with her at her home on Sunday afternoons. ESL Trainings are being provided in August by longtime ESL teacher Rebecca Holmes.  Contact Veronica for details.

3) At Middlebury College: Juntos, a Middlebury College student organization, aims to help migrants in many ways. They support the Mexican consulate visit each year and produced a brochure on Immigrants in the U.S. Myth vs. Fact.  They invite you to share it to explain the obstacles to legalization.  They seek volunteers to tutor English at their classes on campus when the college is in session and perhaps on farms over the summer or other times. Email them at juntos@middlebury.edu

Spanish Language Practice: Some are working to help farmers and volunteers learn basic Spanish needed on dairy farms (e.g., don’t milk that cow, close the gate). https://www.joe.org/joe/2012june/a7.php

Resisting Deportation: Here’s an interesting and informative article with various perspectives and strategies of which to be aware:


Vergennes Farmer Wins Right to Argue in Court for Asylum

Know Your Rights (KYR) Training & Outreach  Middlebury lawyer Emily Joselson attended a livestream, 2-hour training, How to Give a “Know-Your-Rights” Presentation for Immigrants, presented by the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) in collaboration with the CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) project at CUNY School of Law and The Center for Constitutional Rights.  She scheduled a rebroadcasting of this 2 hour training for the larger social justice & legal community recently that covered:

  • What rights do individuals have during an ICE raid, when questioned or searched at the airport, or during an interaction with immigration or law enforcement at home or in public?
  • How can you help your clients, community members, and others invoke their rights and remain safe?
  • What are the tactics that immigration and federal law enforcement use during an arrest, investigation or encounter and how can individuals protect themselves?

If you’d like to view the video in your own time, here is the link: https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/ttt-materials/.  Note that the training itself starts about 3 minutes after the video starts.

Refer to Know Your Rights booklet (KYR). Here are the one page “Know Your Rights” pamphlets published by ACLU, in English and Spanish:  ACLU – Know Your Rights – English-v01  ACLU Know Your Rights Spanish-v01 and a friendlier KYR flyer to share with workers developed by Migrant Justice: KYR Spanish Version.

To find out more about the groups who do this excellent training together go to IDP:  https://www.facebook.com/immdefense?utm_source=March+29+TTT&utm_campaign=73fbfde399-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_89c34aa89c-73fbfde399-14190224

Here’s a link to the Center for Const’l Rts: https://ccrjustice.org/

They now have the training slides available in Spanish.

Migrant Workers/Immigration Panels: Several have been held by various social justice and faith groups to raise awareness. The one at Congregational Church of Middlebury on April 28 was moderated by Emily Joselson and Andy Nagy-Benson and included: Phyllis Bowdish, farm owner;  Julia Doucet, Outreach Coordinator at Open Door Clinic; Dr. Susannah McCandless, International Program Director for Global Diversity and Migrant Justice board member; Robert Zarate-Morales, Middlebury College’s Juntos organization. We were urged us to be in touch with our federal elected officials and ask them to change immigration law to allow longer stays of at least one to two years for dairy workers. We were also asked to prioritize the teaching of English so migrants had greater capacity to access help available to them.

Migrant Justice: Migrant Justice, based in Burlington, is most know for its Milk with Dignity campaign. They’ve organized several rallies, marches and protest campaigns. For more, see Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Timeline. It is working with the VLS on a labor and housing Know your Rights booklet for dairy farm workers in Vermont. They’ve done amazing research and hope to have it ready in few months. Also, they’re working with Vermont Legal Aid for family preparedness plans, and there are other projects in which volunteers could chime in. They warn us to be cautious when creating lists with names, addresses and other personal information of the migrant community to avoid any risks of getting this info in the wrong hands. You can reach out to them with any inquiries (marita@migrantjustice.net). Offer these phone numbers to workers on the KYR spanish version flyer mentioned above:

Teleayuda phone number 802-658-6770 for any question related to labor, housing, immigrant rights

For emergencies such as detention, accident, violence or threats of violence, death, forced labor, etc 802-881-7229

Local/State Law Enforcement Model Policies Meetings:

Middlebury PD:  Emily J met with Chief Hanley, feel confident Midd PD is meeting these goals. See: Response to Inquiry about Sanctuary City Status

Bristol PD:  Monkton People Power met with Chief Gibbs, with the same results

Vergennes PD:  Emily J will reach out to Chief George Merkel, & along with John Barstow, and anyone interested from Monkton, or elsewhere, will arrange a meeting

Addison Co. Sheriff’s Office:  John B will reach out, and along with anyone interested from Monkton, and elsewhere, will arrange a meeting

State Police/Addison Barracks:  Monkton ACLU/PP will reach out and arrange a meeting; if others are interested, email the group.

Mexican Consulate Visits: Several are working to strengthen the next mobile Mexican Consulate Visit (each winter, Sat. Dec. 2, 9 am- 3 pm at CVUUS). See this debriefing: Mexican Consulate After thoughts. A Mexican Consulate Visit is held at Goddard College’s North Campus library in Plainfield (each Spring). Jessica Holmes met with officials there. The Consulate recommends inviting local banks to attend to provide information on opening accounts since saving money and sending it home is critical.

Sanctuary Church: CVUUS is exploring whether it should be available as a Sanctuary for immigrants and migrant workers threatened with deportation by the Federal Government. What are they in a position to offer? What are the risks? Look here.

Open Door Clinic: ODC provides needed health services for migrants. They are a critical hub of migrant support on many levels and coordinate with many groups seeking to assist migrants. Visit www.opendoormidd.org and scan Vermont-Farm-Labor-Wage-and-Hour-and-Housing-Fact-Sheet-English . ODC director Julia Doucet shared that there was a recent press call in Wash, DC to discuss New Legislation to Protect Immigrant Farmworkers. Senator Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Gutiérrez (D-IL), and Farmworker Justice President Bruce Goldstein joined United Farm Worker President Arturo Rodriguez,  farm workers, and farm owners to discuss the widespread implications of Trump’s immigration policies and the Agricultural Worker Program Act, legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein, Leahy (D-VT), Bennet (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), and Harris (D-CA) to protect farm workers from deportation and put them on a pathway to legalization and citizenship. More information about the new legislation is available here. Trump’s Mass Deportation strategy has produced fear tidal waves throughout not only the immigrant communities, but all sectors of the labor force — as over half of all United States farm workers are undocumented, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and over 8 million undocumented immigrants contribute to America’s workforce, according to Pew Research Center. Read more here: Leahy Calls for Blue Card for Farmworkers Open Door Clinic says that one of the best things we can do to help is write to officials to push and thank for legislation changes.

Migrant Health Survey: Cheryl Mitchell has been in touch with Open Door, Migrant Justice and VT Dept of Health about updating the 2007 Migrant Health Survey. If you would like to join the small working group that will help to craft it, please let Cheryl (cheryl.w.mitchell@gmail.com) or Laura (office@cvuus.org) know. She reports that VDH can offer some minor funding support and will be working on this in August.

Clinica de Migrantes: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Middlebury College’s Gloria Zenteno Gonzalez organized a screening of this medical drama about a year in the life of Puentes de Salud, one of the only health clinics in the U.S. involved in the politically controversial practice of providing healthcare to undocumented immigrants.

Driving Migrants: Wendy Goodwin (wendyg820@gmail.com), Norm Tjessom (nkt.xcski@gmail.com) will drive migrants to shop or shop for them. Let either of them know if you’re willing to be a driver to shop for migrants or take them shopping or to errands.

Food to Farms: Many efforts are being made to bring food to farms or hubs and to organize social events for cooking ethnic food. NOFA has a strong interest in better supporting the Migrant community and would welcome ideas for how they might do that, beyond the Milk with Dignity campaign.

Tamale Making Project: Join us Sunday, October 29 at the Methodist Church (Seminary St). This would make it possible to fill a freezer with worker friendly food for the Consulate Visit while providing a fun cultural event. The current idea is to hire some of the farm women to teach cooking classes and to offer a worker friendly community supper with music. The church deacons have graciously said the building could be available for this purpose 4 times a year (in months that have fifth Sundays).

Huertas Project and El Viaje Mas Caro: Both programs are designed to address the unique needs of Vermont’s migrant worker population. One helps establish gardens growing migrant food and the other records stories in cartoon format.  Learn about el-viaje-mas-caro project.

Coordinating with Other Social Justice Groups: Margy Young and others have created a list of local organizations meeting and doing work in Addison County in an effort to help us avoid duplication:  https://sites.google.com/view/middleburyresistance/connect and calendar of upcoming events at https://sites.google.com/view/middleburyresistance/calendarMiddlebury

Indivisible tries to meet the second Monday of every month at 7:30 pm at CVUUS and is discussing migrant support as well as other issues. They hosted an  “activist meetup” on Sunday June 11 at Kingsland Bay State park in place of their Monday meeting in June for members of activist groups (and their families) to connect. They’ll meet next Aug 14, and Sept 11.

Middlebury SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) meets on the 1st Thursday of every month at 7:45 pm. Migrant Justice has been the focus of their recent meetings. They mobilized Addison County residents to attend the March for Milk with Dignity on June 17 mentioned under Migrant Justice’s work. Contact Joanna Colwell at joanna@ottercreekyoga.com if you want to go. They organized  a family friendly sign making party at Otter Creek Yoga in the Marbleworks for the May Day: the March for Dignity in Burlington to demand justice for farmworkers and human rights for all. All were invited to check out the May SURJ meeting, enjoy some cake, and write postcards to Ben and Jerry’s encouraging them to support the Milk with Dignity campaign (see sample below). They raised $500 for Migrant Justice and $500 for Open Door Clinic with a screening of The Long Ride on Sun May 21, 7 pm at Middlebury’s Marquis Theater. It told the story of the historic 2003 Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride that sparked the birth of the new Civil Rights Movement for immigrant workers in the United States.


March for Dignity: On Saturday June 17, several Middlebury SURJ members walked almost 14 miles from Montpelier to Waterbury, demanding humane working conditions for Vermont dairy workers. They learned devastating news that two farmworkers who bravely marched for their human rights have been detained by ICE. Several wrote immediately to ICE/Boston (1000 District Ave, Boston MA 01803) to tell them to use their discretion to release Esau Peche-Ventura (2/4/91) and Yesenia Hernandez-Ramos (1/18/98). We asked them to pass the message along to Field Office Director Chris Cronen. Then called Senator Sanders (802-862-0697) and Senator Leahy (802-863-2525) asking them to do everything they can to free Yesenia and Esau. Both Leahy and Sanders’ offices were excellent and said they were trying to take action on the case.

Mr. Jostein Solheim, CEO

Ben and Jerry’s Homemade, Inc.

30 Community Drive

South Burlington, Vermont 05403-6828

Dear Mr.  Solheim:

Dairy workers have spoken with you directly about the unacceptable housing and working conditions that they face every day. And yet Ben & Jerry’s postpones progress with excuses, when the solutions are ready to launch: join and implement the Milk with Dignity Program.

You cannot proudly advertise Ben & Jerry’s commitment to racial equity while delaying dignity for workers in the company’s own dairy supply chain. I can only measure Ben & Jerry’s commitment to social justice by actions.

Thus far, Ben & Jerry’s actions prefer the illusion of “happy cows” to the reality of human rights. The Milk with Dignity Program is a powerful tool to fight the systemic injustice, racism, and human rights crisis in the dairy supply chain. Milk with Dignity offers a holistic approach to workers’ rights that brings together farmers and farmworkers to achieve worker- defined human rights standards.

I stand with Migrant Justice and urge you to fully join and implement Migrant Justice’s ilk with Dignity Program and make an unequivocal commitment to human rights in your dairy supply chain today.