Movement to #FreeVictor Secures Human Rights Leader’s Release From Immigration Custody

Vermont human rights leader Victor Diaz was ordered released this morning by Judge Paul M. Gagnon at the Boston Immigration Court. Judge Gagnon set bond at $1,500, the lowest level allowable by law. Mr. Diaz will soon be released and will return to Vermont, where he will continue his leadership in the farmworker organization Migrant Justice.  The hearing came two days after hundreds marched through Montpelier demanding Mr. Diaz’s release as part of the Vermont People’s Convention.

Mr. Diaz stated: “I want to thank everyone for your support. I hope that one day soon I will be able to personally thank all those who have stood by me.”

Mr. Diaz’s attorney, Matt Cameron, presented nearly 2,000 petition signatures at this morning’s hearing, accompanied by an additional 30 letters from close friends and colleagues of Mr. Diaz.

Said Mr. Cameron: “Victor's release is well-deserved, and the direct result of the immense groundswell of support he has received from across the country in the past week. His strong community ties and recognized leadership on behalf of his fellow workers truly made the difference here.”

Letters of support attested to Mr. Diaz’s deep roots in his community as a farmworker on Vermont dairy farms over the past six years and as a leader of Migrant Justice's Milk with Dignity campaign to raise wages and improve working conditions in the dairy industry.

Lutheran Pastor Kim Erno, Director of Franklin Alliance for Rural Ministries (FARM), wrote: [Victor] drew from his own experience of having been treated unjustly to become a champion of human rights for his fellow farm workers … calling for dignified housing and just working conditions for all.”

Mr. Diaz was arrested by plainclothes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on April 21st outside a Mexican cultural event in Stowe, VT. He came to ICE’s attention following a 2015 arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. Following the arrest, Mr. Diaz paid a fine and had his license reinstated. He continued to drive without incident for months until his detention in April. ICE has not provided information detailing how they tracked Mr. Diaz to the cultural event.

Mr. Diaz joined the Vermont farmworker organization Migrant Justice in 2013, organizing with co-workers on his farm to win back $1,800 in stolen wages. He became a leader in the organization’s “Milk with Dignity” campaign, an effort to improve labor and housing conditions by enlisting dairy buying corporations to restrict purchases to farms that meet a farmworker-defined Code of Conduct.  Mr. Diaz has played a central role in negotiations with Ben & Jerry’s, resulting in the ice cream company’s commitment to join the “Milk with Dignity” program. He was recognized for the work in a 2015 article by the New York Times.

While released on bond, Mr. Diaz is still in active deportation proceedings. Supporters continue to rally to his defense and are petitioning ICE to drop its case against Mr. Diaz.

Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar summed it up, “We will not rest until Victor and our community can live and work in the state of Vermont free from fear of deportation. As a community, we are joining together to call for an end to all deportations.”

Press Contact: Will Lambek, 802-321-8393, will@migrantjustice.net

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