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In Settlement, Vermont DMV Promises To Limit Sharing Of Immigration Status With Feds

Advocates standing with a sign that says Human Rights in English and Spanish
John Dillon
Enrique Balcazar, at podium, and other Migrant Justice activists announce a settlement Wednesday of a discrimination lawsuit with the Vermont DMV.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles will restrict the information it shares with federal immigration authorities, according to a detailed settlement reached between the DMV, the advocacy group Migrant Justice and the ACLU of Vermont.

The advocates sued in 2018 after they obtained records that showed DMV routinely forwarded information, such as copies of birth certificates, passports and license applications, to agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Speaking through an interpreter, activist Enrique Balcazar — whose own license application was sent to federal immigration authorities — said the information sharing caused fear among farmworkers.

"This information was key and essential in the deportation of a mass number of people from our state," he said. "We will never know the full impact of this betrayal."

The settlement announced Wednesday limits DMV's role in federal immigration investigations, and it requires DMV workers to take anti-discrimination training.

ACLU lawyer Lia Ernst explained that the settlement restricts the information DMV can keep and what it can share.

"DMV will no longer make and store copies of documents that people present in applying for a driver privilege card. These are documents like passports, birth certificates — items to prove their residency and identity," Ernst said. "Plus, DMV will destroy on request documents that it had previously copied with prior applicants for driver privilege cards. So taken together, these two protections mean that if ICE comes looking for that information, DMV simply won't have it to share."

In a written news release Thursday, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan said his office helped negotiate the settlement:

"We are all Vermonters—regardless of immigration status—and we should all be able to seek a driver’s privilege card without fear that the federal government will unjustifiably obtain access to our personal information. This is an important settlement that helps protect all Vermonters’ ability to drive legally."

While the settlement resolves the complaint against the DMV, a lawsuit against federal agencies continues.

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