The Vermont DMV Sold Out Undocumented Immigrants Getting Their Licenses to ICE


Vermont’s Department of Motor Vehicles regularly worked with federal immigration officials to identify undocumented immigrants who went to the agency to apply for their driver’s licenses, documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union show.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials regularly collaborate with the Vermont DMV for information about undocumented people, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The practice appears to have continued even after Vermont’s Human Rights Commission found that the DMV discriminated against a Jordanian national who was applying for a Drivers’ Privilege Card, a class of license that allows undocumented residents to legally drive in Vermont.

When Abdel Rababah, who had lived in the state for a decade, tried to apply for the card in late 2015, DMV officials were “openly hostile” to him and eventually contacted ICE, according to a statement from ACLU-VT. DMV officials then took the extraordinary step of calling a meeting with Rababah–ostensibly to talk about his application–where ICE officials ambushed and arrested him, which triggered deportation proceedings.

The case was settled through mediation, which produced an agreement to change several DMV policies related to the application process, including added language that residents aren’t required to state their immigration status to get their license.

At the time, DMV Commissioner Robert Ide said department officials were still learning how the new law, which went into effect just weeks before Rababah applied, was supposed to work in practice and they didn’t mean him ill will.

“We were learning, and our counter people were learning. I don’t think anyone intentionally set out to make his life difficult,” Ide said, as quoted by

But, as the ACLU documents apparently show, the practice didn’t end. Vermont Governor Phil Scott said in a press conference that he would “rectify” the issue.

In late 2016, Montpelier became the state’s third city to vote to become a sanctuary city—a municipality that does not actively work with federal immigration officials to arrest and deport undocumented people—in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

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