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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

After Unanimous Senate Approval, Vermont's Immigration Bill Could Face House Pushback

Golden dome of the Vermont Statehouse on a cloudy day.
Angela Evancie
VPR file
Senate leaders and Gov. Phil Scott say they hope the Vermont House fast-tracks approval of a new immigration bill, but GOP members of the House have expressed concern.

A bill that won unanimous approval in the Vermont Senate last week appears likely to face a partisan split in the House. 

The bill says only the governor has the right to enter into agreements with federal immigration authorities — not individual police departments — and it expressly prohibits the gathering of information that could be used in a registry.

Related: Vermont Senate Passes Immigration Bill In 30-0 Vote

House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton says people shouldn't expect such easy passage in the House.

Turner says he's been hearing from constituents and fellow Republican representatives who have major concerns. For one, he says, will this legislation threaten the ability of longstanding agreements for federal law enforcement agents, like Border Patrol, to respond to emergencies in Vermont?

"We have these relationships that have been in existence for years, with people being mutual aid and covering and so on," Turner says. "So I don't want to jeopardize that relationship."

But Senate co-sponsor Dustin Degree, a Republican from Franklin County, has tried to reassure his House colleague.

"I think it's a wonderful question to ask," he says, "and it's been answered. The questioning on the Senate floor, the questioning in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the conversations we had with the administration and the attorney general all came back and said these mutual aid situations will not be changed."

Turner admits he hasn't read or listened to the testimony the Senate took on this bill, so he looks forward to holding hearings in the House in the coming weeks.

Senate leaders and Gov. Phil Scott have called on the Legislature to fast-track the bill.

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