SOUTH BURLINGTON – A late November traffic stop conducted by the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department (CCSD) resulted in the detainment of a migrant farmworker living in Franklin County by federal agents, according to a Burlington-based migrant advocacy group.
In a statement released early Monday morning, advocacy group Migrant Justice alleged a CCSD deputy reported Luis Ulloa, a 21-year-old farmworker living in Franklin County, to U.S. Border Patrol during a Nov. 22 traffic stop on Interstate 89 near South Burlington.
According to Migrant Justice, responding Border Patrol agents arrested Ulloa, who is now being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without bond in the Strafford County House of Corrections in Dover, N.H.
Migrant Justice alleged the actions of CCSD deputy Jeffry Turner, who conducted the traffic stop and, upon finding Ulloa with a Mexican passport, contacted Border Patrol, violated the department’s fair and impartial policing policy.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin defended Turner, saying, as of a preliminary investigation, “it is my belief that Deputy Sheriff Turner’s conduct with regard to the November 22, 2019 traffic stop, and his decision to involve federal authorities, is consistent with the provisions of that policy.”
“My investigation on this matter remains open, and I welcome any additional relevant information with regard to Deputy Sheriff Turner’s conduct so that I can re-assess my preliminary determination if necessary,” McLaughlin added.
According to Migrant Justice, Ulloa was traveling to Burlington when Turner stopped the vehicle Ulloa was riding in for speeding. Per CCSD, the vehicle was traveling in an excess of 80 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour safety zone at the time Turner conducted the stop.
According to McLaughlin, Turner asked for identification of the vehicle’s four occupants after finding the operator, Ulloa’s cousin Juan Ulloa, was driving without a valid Vermont license.
“Therefore, the need arose for a properly-licensed individual to drive the stopped car away from the scene,” McLaughlin wrote in a statement.
According to McLaughlin, Turner requested identification from each of the vehicle’s occupants to determine if one of the occupants was a “properly licensed individual” in order to “drive the car away from its location on the Interstate.”
McLaughlin said Turner had “a reasonable suspicion, based on a totality of the circumstances, that there had been a violation of federal criminal laws by some of the occupants of the vehicle.”
As a result, according to McLaughlin, Turner contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection to assist and delayed the traffic stop until immigration officials arrived. Turner, per McLaughlin, “alerted the occupants of the vehicle as to the reason for the delay while awaiting the arrival of federal agents.”
Only one occupant of the vehicle was arrested by federal agents, according to McLaughlin. The sheriff declined to name the occupant in order to honor their privacy.
The operator of the vehicle was issued a civil violation for “no license,” according to McLaughlin, and the operator and the vehicle’s two other occupants left the scene once a licensed driver arrived at the scene to drive the vehicle away.
According to Migrant Justice, CCSD violated the department’s fair and impartial policing policy, citing language in the policy stating CCSD employees “shall not initiate or prolong stops for the purpose of enforcing civil immigration matters, such as suspicion of undocumented status, nor shall they prolong stops for the purpose of allowing federal immigration authorities to conduct such investigation.”
Migrant Justice also accused the sheriff’s department of violating language stating members of the department “shall not facilitate the detention of undoucmented individuals, or individuals suspected of being undocumented by federal immigration authorities for suspected civil immigration violations.”
“When Mr. Ulloa presented a Mexican passport, Deputy Turner photographed the passport, contacted U.S. Border Patrol, and held the vehicle occupants, in violation of the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy,” Migrant Justice said in their statement.
McLaughlin, defending Turner’s handling of the traffic stop that led to Ulloa’s arrest, said Turner had “attended all required training and classes relative to the implementation of that policy.”
According to Migrant Justice, Ulloa has worked on farms in New York and Vermont for the past four years, sending money back to his mother and siblings in Mexico.
In response to Ulloa’s arrest, Migrant Justice called for a protest in front of the CCSD’s South Burlington office “to denounce the collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents.”
The driver of the vehicle, Luis’s cousin Juan Ulloa, was scheduled to speak at the protest about the Nov. 22 incident.