RUTLAND, Vt. (CN) — The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles agreed as part of a settlement Wednesday to stop sharing registration information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“With this settlement, the state of Vermont makes good on its promise to guarantee access to driver’s licenses without discrimination,” said Enrique Balcazar, a leader with the group Migrant Justice behind the underlying 2018 suit. “Though justice delayed is justice denied for the many whose lives have been ruined by the DMV’s harmful collaboration with ICE, we firmly believe that this settlement will put an end to that abuse of power going forward. Vermont’s immigrant community can now safely exercise this hard-fought right.”
DMV officials have been working with ICE in the immigration detention and deportation matters in the wake of a 2013 state law that created what is known as Driver’s Privilege Cards for individuals regardless of immigration status. ICE allegedly used the data to study Migrant Justice leaders, compiling dossiers that included their social media pages and media appearances.
The DMV sent Balcazar’s information to ICE in 2017, designating him as undocumented. He and other activists say they were targeted for their political activities. Indeed Balcazar was among at least nine of members of Migrant Justice said to have been targeted by the government.
Migrant Justice said these information-sharing practices occurred even after a 2016 settlement with the Vermont Human Rights Commission.
Wednesday’s settlement formalizes new regulations to restrict communication and information-sharing between the state and federal immigration agencies. It also prohibits the DMV from retaining copies of birth certificates, passports and other sensitive information of applicants for Driver’s Privilege Cards.
The DMV must retrain all personnel and hire an auditor for a minimum of 18 months to ensure compliance with the agreement.
“Today’s settlement puts a stop to the DMV’s history of close collaboration with Border Patrol and ICE and ensures greater protections for our immigrant communities,” said Lia Ernst, an attorney with ACLU of Vermont. “The settlement limits what information the DMV collects and under what circumstances that information can be shared with the federal government. We know, however, that the protections our clients fought for and won are only as strong as their implementation and enforcement. That is why this settlement also includes training, transparency, and accountability measures that ensure that those protections are realized.”
Joel Cohen, an attorney with Gibson Dunn, called on other public agencies to re- evaluate their information-sharing practices in the wake of the Vermont settlement.
Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based human rights organization founded and led by immigrant farmworkers.
The Homeland Security Department did not respond to an email seeking comment.