Thursday, September 27, 2007
The State of Vermount added to the list of affected cities and States by the Anti Immigrants Laws. Two Men had been caught by I.C.E. 'I don't know if they'd been staking us out or what. 'They just caught them as they were coming into the driveway. 'They became like family to us.
The arrest of two immigrant farm workers Wednesday prompted Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas to tell Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the need for comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that farms have enough labor, Douglas's spokesman said.
It was apparently a coincidence that the Mexican workers were apprehended by the Border Patrol the same day that Chertoff was in Vermont to promote a state plan for enhanced driver's licenses that would make it easier for people to cross the border.
'The governor understands the responsibility of the Border Patrol is to enforce the existing law, which is why he talked about comprehensive reform,' Gibbs said.
Douglas, a Republican, told Chertoff that he supported the agriculture jobs bill being promoted by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, 'so the Border Patrol and other federal agencies could devote more attention to securing the borders from terrorist threats and drug runners.'
Douglas and Chertoff met briefly in Burlington before the two signed a memorandum of understanding for the state to develop enhanced driver's licenses.
'As I understand it, it did come up,' Chertoff Spokesman Russ Knocke said of the Border Patrol arrests.
'Secretary Chertoff really led efforts on the part of the administration to work with Congress to develop a workable solution to a problem that has been decades in the making,' Knocke said
Leahy's bill, known as AGJOBS, would offer longtime illegal farm workers a way to continue in their jobs with legal status. Since it was derailed, Leahy has looked for a way to enact the bill separately, said Leahy spokesman David Carle.
'That is not going to be easy to do, because immigration has become a political lightning rod in Congress, and the Bush Administration has resisted the AgJobs reforms,' Carle said.
More and more Vermont farmers are turning to immigrant farm workers because they can't find adequate local labor.
Douglas's in-laws, dairy farmers in Addison County, employ immigrant farm workers. And Gibbs said Douglas understood the need for reliable farm labor.
'They employ immigrant labor and the individuals they employ present valid documentation,' Gibbs said. 'The broader issue here is whether or not farmers are qualified to validate the authenticity of otherwise valid documents. I think everyone agrees the answer to that is no. They shouldn't have to be in the business of documentation. That's the role of the government.'
Richard and Dawn Dodd, of Sheldon, said the two workers -- an unrelated man and a woman -- were taken into custody by the Border Patrol at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday as they arrived for work.
Richard Dodd his brother and their wives are partners in Dodd Farms, a 1,300-acre operation with 500 head of cattle that milks 300 cows three times a day. The two immigrants who were arrested had only been working for them for a few weeks, Dawn Dodd said.
Border Patrol spokesman Mark Henry said a routine traffic stop led agents to the workers, whose identities were not released.
But Richard Dodd said he felt someone had turned his workers in.
'I don't know if they'd been staking us out or what,' Richard Dodd said. 'They caught them as they were coming into the driveway.'
After the two were arrested, they were taken back to the mobile home where they had been staying and allowed to collect their belongings, Nocke and Gibbs said. Richard Dodd was later allowed to deliver their paychecks, although he did not get a chance to speak to them.
Dawn Dodd said the workers who were arrested replaced two other workers, who returned to Mexico after working for the Dodds for years. The couple said they turned to immigrant labor when they couldn't find acceptable local workers.
'The work ethic is unreal. They catch on quick. They're willing to learn,' she said.
'They became like family to us,' Dodd said of the workers who left a few weeks ago to return to Mexico. 'They became like family to us.'