2017-02-10 / State/Regional

Vermont proposes legislation on Trump immigration orders

By WILSON RING
Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic House and Senate leaders announced legislation Thursday that would require the governor to approve action planned by Vermont and local law enforcement agencies before they carry out federal immigration duties in accordance with President Donald Trump's executive orders.

The legislation also would prohibit the state from providing to the federal government personally identifiable information that could be used to set up a registry based on immigration status, gender orientation or identity, marital status, race, religion, nation of origin, age or disability.

"This is an important step to ensure that all who reside in our state and visit Vermont feel safe and free to engage in law enforcement and other government authorities without fear," Scott said at a Statehouse news conference where the details of the proposal were released.

The governor and others talked of Vermont as a state that has welcomed immigrants for generations.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, said the Republican president's travel ban and other executive orders affecting immigrants have caused "anxiety and fear" among Vermonters.

"Vermont will not be complacent," Donovan said. "And as I've said, this bill simply enshrines what our founders wrote in our constitution over 200 years ago. This is about individual freedom and freedom from religious discrimination."

Both Donovan and Scott emphasized the legislation would not turn Vermont into a "sanctuary state." Some cities and towns across the country, including a growing number in Vermont, have claimed the loosely defined mantle of sanctuary cities or towns that vow to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in immigration matters.

"I don't think it's advisable to label towns or states as sanctuaries," Donovan said. "I think the more appropriate work is to do the policy work at the state level and the city and town level."

Identical proposals were formally introduced in the state House and Senate on Thursday and leaders of both chambers, heavily controlled by Democrats, promised quick action. A joint meeting of the House and Senate judiciary committees is scheduled for Friday. Leaders are hoping for quick passage.

Rep. Don Turner, the House Republican leader, said many believe Vermont is creating a sanctuary state.

"There are concerns. We are not lining up and saying we are fully supportive of what's being proposed today," Turner said. "We want Vermonters to know that there are people in Montpelier in this Statehouse who aren't fully on board with this and we will bring those concerns to the committees."

He said the concerns would be addressed in the legislative process.

Anti-Trump efforts have dominated the legislative session in California, with Democrats proposing a wide range of bills to protect immigrant communities. Lawmakers also hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to advise them on legal strategy.

In New York and New Jersey, Democratic legislators proposed bills to prohibit the bi-state Port Authority from enforcing the immigration ban and a bill in the Democratic-controlled New York State Assembly would force the state to divest holdings in companies that work on Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico.

Both Scott and Donovan said Vermont law enforcement agencies would continue their ongoing cooperation with federal authorities on other issues.

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