Migrant Justice is planning a protest this week against the detention of a farmworker by immigration authorities near the Vermont-Canada border earlier this month.
The group, which represents immigrant farmworkers, says that Jose Luis Cordova Herrera, a 40-year-old father of three, was arrested by Border Patrol as he was leaving a dental appointment on Feb. 8.
Border Patrol confirmed that an agent arrested a Mexican national and turned him over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on that date, but said the encounter did not happen near a health center.
Migrant Justice says that a Border Patrol agent took notice of Cordova Herrera when he was on his way to a teeth-cleaning appointment. The agent was reportedly still there when he left the office an hour later. As Cordova Herrera and his friend drove away from the office, the agent followed and pulled them over about eight miles down the road, according to the group.
In a press release, Migrant Justice said the detention of Cordova Herrera was in conflict with an ICE policy that restricts enforcement actions in “sensitive locations,” which include medical and health care facilities, according to ICE’s website.
“Border Patrol arresting people as they’re leaving a health clinic, it’s an attack against the human right to have access to health care,” Migrant Justice spokesman Will Lambek said Sunday.
Stephanie Malin, a regional spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that a Border Patrol agent was in a marked car about four miles from downtown Richford, “not in the vicinity of any businesses or health care facilities.” The agent observed “very suspicious” behavior by occupants of a car driving past, she said.
“This behavior, as well as other contributing factors, resulted in the agent conducting a vehicle stop in order to determine the immigration status of the occupants,” she said in a statement.
Malin said the male passenger was found to be a Mexican citizen who did not have legal status in the United States, and was subsequently turned over to a branch of ICE.
Cordova Herrera is currently being held at a facility in New Hampshire with bail set at $14,000, and faces deportation, according to Migrant Justice.
According to the group, Cordova Herrera came to Vermont from Mexico. He moved to the United States in order to send money home to pay for his children’s schooling. Over the course of the last two years, he has worked on three different Vermont dairy farms, the group said.
Cordova Herrera’s friend, who was driving, was also detained and questioned for several hours, according to Lambek. That individual holds a green card, and was eventually released without charges, he added.
Migrant Justice is planning a rally to protest the arrest outside the health center in Richford on Tuesday.