COLCHESTER — Immigration and Customs and Enforcement raided a Days Inn hotel in Colchester last Thursday in the first sweep of migrant workers in Vermont.
ICE detained 14 construction workers, according to Will Lambek of Migrant Justice, a group that supports undocumented workers.
The raid was conducted at 5 a.m. Lambek said other construction workers who were not included in the sweep notified Migrant Justice.
The migrants were working for a contracting firm in the area. Lambek did not release information about the company for fear of jeopardizing other workers.
Lambek said the raid "was out of scale" for Vermont, and the timing puts the discussion about protecting immigrants who have had protected status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in sharp relief.
VTDigger reached out to ICE for confirmation of the raid, but a message from a regional spokesperson said that the agency's public affairs officers will not be working for the duration of the government shutdown.
Gov. Phil Scott said Monday morning he was not aware of the raid.
"Obviously I have great concern about the overreach of the federal government in some respects and the direction we're moving," he said. "And while we have to protect our citizens, our border and so forth, there's got to be a path forward. We here in Vermont are desperate for workers.
"So I think that's unfortunate, for those that are here safely and peacefully. I have concerns."
Darcy Church, general manager of the Days Inn, said the workers staying at the motel but were not doing construction work there.
"We didn't hire them, they were guests. They could have been guests anywhere,"
Church was not there at the time of the raid.
"It wasn't a big deal here from the motel's perspective. They just came in and went up to the rooms where those people were staying and got them out," she said.
Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison said the department had "no knowledge" of the event until Monday. The department did not collaborate with ICE at all on the enforcement action, she said.
"We were not involved in it," she said.
Immigration enforcement actions have expanded under the Trump administration. Earlier this month, ICE carried out sweeps in nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the country.
The administration has also vowed to crack down on so-called "sanctuary" policies some cities and states have that restrict local police from working with the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
In November, Vermont was among 29 jurisdictions the U.S. Department of Justice threatened to cut funding to over policies limiting law enforcement contact with federal immigration authorities.
Jay Diaz, a lawyer for the Vermont ACLU, said "We're pretty shocked that there would be raids like this in Vermont like there have been in other parts of the country. We're still trying to gather information about why this happened, but it's clear the Trump administration is taking a very draconian approach to immigration enforcement and in doing so focusing on people who are just out there try to make a living."
Diaz said he hopes Vermonters speak out against this type of activity and hold public officials accountable.
"We should seek to end any assistance that we may be providing to immigration agencies becasue it's clear that they are not good actors [ICE]," Diaz said. They are looking to disrupt and intimidate our residents and apparently our government officials."
Diaz called on public officials to condemn the raids and other ICE activities, including immigration checkpoints on I-91 near White River Junction and the practice of boarding greyhound buses asking riders to provide passports and drivers licenses.
"We've heard several times about border patrol agents boarding buses going through White River Junction and asking for papers," Diaz said. "That's not the kind of country we are are."