Farmworkers’ arrest brings protest to ICE

Will Lambek, left, translates into English what fellow Migrant Justice activists Enrique Balcazar, Victor Diaz and Abel Luna say about the detainment of farmworkers Esau Peche and Yesenia Hernández. The group spoke to media and chanted their message in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office Monday afternoon.

ST. ALBANS — Migrant Justice was here Monday protesting the arrest of two Franklin County farmworkers arrested and detained by U.S. Border Patrol Saturday night. Protestors outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office asked for their immediate release.

“It’s unjust that any human being is put into shackles… just for the reason that they’re here in this country, in this state, milking cows,” said David Diaz, a member of Migrant Justice, through a translator.

Founded by immigrant farmworkers working in Vermont, Migrant Justice aims to build the voice and power of the farmworker community and advocate for economic justice and human rights.

More than 30 members showed up Monday around noon, holding signs saying “Not one more” and “ICE stop attacking our families,” demanding the release of Esau Peche and Yesenia Hernández.

“They’re two of the 1,500 farmworkers living and working in the state, making our dairy industry function, milking cows for long hours at low wages in difficult and dangerous conditions,” said Will Lambek, another member of Migrant Justice, who acted as the translator during the protest.

According to Migrant Justice, Peche and Hernández were pulled over by Border Patrol in East Franklin on their way home Saturday night, after participating in a march with Migrant Justice earlier that day.

The couple, along with 200 others, walked 13 miles from Montpelier to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, asking the ice cream makers to join Milk with Dignity, a program designed by dairy workers to improve conditions in the industry.

“Any time a farmworker steps off their farm, they’re putting themselves at risk of detention and deportation,” said Lambek. “So it makes it even more powerful, the sacrifice that these workers knowingly made to say, ‘We aren’t going to live in the shadows. We’re going to come out, show our faces, demand dignity, demand our rights.'”

For more on the protest, pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.

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