Migrant Justice v. Nielsen

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

November 14, 2018

Current Status 

Plaintiffs settled with the Vermont DMV on January 15, 2020. The case against the federal defendants is ongoing.

Co-Counsel 

National Center for Law and Economic Justice; National Immigration Law Center; ACLU of Vermont; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Client(s) 

Migrant Justice, Inc.;  Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez; Zully Palacios Rodriguez; Jose Victor Garcia Diaz; Miguel Alcudia Gamas

Case Description 

Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based advocacy organization with roots in economic justice, labor, and human rights, and six of its members are suing the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. The lawsuit alleges that ICE retaliated against Migrant Justice for its First Amendment-protected activity, engaging in a years-long systemic campaign of surveillance, targeting, harassment, and arrest and detention of nearly a dozen of its members, a campaign that continues to present day. Reminiscent of federal efforts to invade and destabilize progressive organizations of color in the 1960’s and 1970’s, ICE specifically and explicitly targeted Migrant Justice leadership to dismantle the organization and weaken its efficacy as an advocate for the Vermont migrant community.  In order to do so, ICE relied on assistance from the Vermont DMV, which provided personal and sensitive information about Migrant Justice members as a part of the DMV’s larger discriminatory animus against the Vermont Latinx community, which as the complaint alleges, violates Equal Protection. Taken together, the ongoing campaign has chilled Migrant Justice and its members’ speech and caused them significant harm, for which plaintiffs seek injunctive and monetary relief.

Case Timeline

January 15, 2020
Individual plaintiffs and Migrant Justice reach a settlement agreement with the state defendant, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles
January 15, 2020
Individual plaintiffs and Migrant Justice reach a settlement agreement with the state defendant, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles
The agreement outlines various changes to the Vermont DMV’s policies and practices that, most notably, limit information sharing for federal immigration purposes and document requests for information by immigration officials, increase cultural competency, bias, and other training for DMV employees, and expand and improve access to Vermont’s driver privilege cards. The agreement also provides a monitoring and auditing process to ensure the DMV's compliance with the changes.
February 7, 2019
Plaintiffs file amended complaint
February 7, 2019
Plaintiffs file amended complaint
November 14, 2018
Plaintiffs file complaint in U.S. District Court in the District of Vermont
November 14, 2018
Plaintiffs file complaint in U.S. District Court in the District of Vermont