- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Two advocates for dairy farm workers were released on bond Tuesday following their arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement about two weeks ago.

Zully Palacios and Enrique Balcazar, who are in the United States illegally, said they were still fighting for the release of a third activist, who remained behind bars.

Palacios and Balcazar, leaders of immigrant rights group Migrant Justice, were arrested by plainclothes ICE officers over immigration violations. They don’t have criminal records and weren’t charged with criminal offenses. They said they believe ICE targeted them because they are activists.

The third activist, Cesar Alexis Carrillo Sanchez, was taken into custody when he arrived at a courthouse to face a now-dismissed drunken-driving charge. A judge denied Sanchez bond, and Migrant Justice organizers said they believe he remains in a New Hampshire detention center.

ICE said Sanchez told them he entered the United States illegally and is facing deportation.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, has pushed to expand ICE’s role and has called for thousands of new border patrol and ICE agents. He has said his immigration and deportation policies are necessary and are meant to keep the United States safe.

Palacios is from Peru, and Balcazar and Sanchez are from Mexico. Balcazar spoke Tuesday about Trump’s policies through a Spanish-English interpreter.

“We, as an immigrant community, are facing very difficult times with the executive orders from the Trump administration,” Balcazar said in Spanish.

At the news conference at which Balcazar spoke, the National Education Association awarded Migrant Justice the Cesar Chavez Human and Civil Rights Award, one of its most prestigious awards.

The NEA said it gave the award before it usually does in June to call attention to Migrant Justice and the nationwide arrests of immigrants.

“We denounce in the strongest terms possible the arrest of these activists and call for the immediate release of the detained Migrant Justice leaders,” NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said.

U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, also a Democrat, said in a statement they have expressed serious concerns to ICE officials over the arrests.

They also are asking about the potential impact in Vermont of Trump’s executive order calling for increased immigration enforcement.

“Instead of focusing on removing those people who pose a threat to public safety or national security, the Trump Administration is targeting all undocumented persons, including the people that help keep our dairy farms and rural economy afloat,” their statement said.

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