Since last week, a great deal of attention has been paid to the
Immigration Bill that has been introduced in the Vermont General Assembly in reaction to President Trumps Executive Orders dealing with immigration and the refugee program.
Specifically, a great many inquiries and concerns have been directed at me as the House Republican who joined the Democratic Leader and Progressive Leader in introducing the bill in the House. So, I would like to clear up a few things about the bill itself, and then explain why I decided to co-sponsor it.
First, this bill is a very carefully crafted, limited bill that was developed by, and supported by, a wide range of critical stakeholders. These include Vermont Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, Public Safety officials, numerous state agencies, and the Attorney General’s office.
To be clear, it does not establish Vermont as a “Sanctuary State,” and it makes very clear that we will comply with all federal laws.
What it also does, however, is protect our Constitutional rights – specifically with regard to the 4th Amendment and the 10th Amendment.
10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
In my view, and in the view of many, this part of the President’s Executive Order is an overreach of Federal authority.
Instead, this legislation would require approval of the Governor of the State of Vermont for local or state law enforcement officials to be called upon to enforce federal immigration laws.
4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The second, more controversial, aspect of H. 228, is that it ensures that the state will not collect or release personal identifiable information for the sole purpose of creating a national registry. This is more proactive than a reaction to the EOs, but it is an important step; an important message to send that Vermont is going to protect the civil liberties of our residents.
The Governor said it best when he asked us all to think of the precedent the Executive Order sets. Take away the issue of immigrants, and the current issues at hand. Imagine, four years from now, or eight years from now – and we have a new President. And, let’s imagine that President decides he is going to deputize local law enforcement in order to collect information on where guns and ammunition are throughout the country. I can assure you, I would join that Constitutional fight to uphold the 2nd Amendment too.
To be clear, we must, absolutely, ensure the safety of our citizens, and do all we can to prevent terrorists from entering our country. And, the President has the authority to put into place initiatives that will do just that. Vermont, however, also has the authority to protect our state’s rights and the rights of our residents afforded in the U.S. Constitution.