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‘Basketball is my world’: Former Vermont star hired to lead CVU program

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‘Basketball is my world’: Former Vermont star hired to lead CVU program


Vermont basketball’s career 3-point leader has sights set on his next big challenge: Coaching a high school program in the state he now calls home.

Ernie Duncan, the former Catamount star from 2014-19, recently accepted the head-coaching gig to lead the Champlain Valley boys basketball team. Duncan replaces Mike Osborne, who stepped down after an 11-run that included guiding the Redhawks to their first championship in 2023.

In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Duncan said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Since graduating from UVM in 2019 following the Catamounts’ trip to the NCAA Tournament, Duncan remained in Vermont and started a basketball training business, Duncan Hoops, that also offers clinics and camps.

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“Basketball is my world, it’s my job. I’m going to spend a lot of time with this program,” said Duncan, who’s originally from Evansville, Indiana. “I’m going to treat this almost like a college gig.

“I fell in love with the Vermont community, it’s a reason why I haven’t really left. I love the people.”

2019 file: An appreciation of Ernie Duncan: The 10 best games of his UVM basketball career

WDEV Radio’s Brady Farkas first reported the news of Duncan’s hiring on Tuesday night.

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Duncan arrived in Burlington in 2014, the key recruit in the Vermont coaching staff’s philosophical shift to expand its recruiting efforts across the country. Duncan and Co. helped to usher in a new era for Vermont, which has played in five NCAA tournaments, including three straight, over the last decade.

Duncan sits 10th in program history in career points (1,489) and second in 3-pointers made. His 41.9% on 3-point attempts remains No. 1 on UVM’s all-time list. Duncan and brothers Everett and Robin made history in Ernie Duncan’s final collegiate game in 2019, when they became the first trio of brothers to share the court in a March Madness game.

2019 file: How Ernie Duncan coped with depression, suicidal thoughts to return to UVM basketball

Aiming to grow basketball in Vermont, Duncan has coached at the Mater Christi School and at the AAU level. Giving back is also important to Duncan.

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“I love mentoring players and developing players on and off the court. Relationships are a big piece,” Duncan said. “The way I coach, I’m very mild-mannered and competitive. I’m going to compete. And I think it’s important to teach kids how to compete, compete the right way.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time on this and give 110% effort.”

Duncan is the second person with ties to UVM to be hired at CVU. The Hinesburg school named Dominique Bryant, former UVM women’s basketball associate head coach, as the successor to Ute Otley to lead the Redhawks girls basketball program.

Become a member of the Vermont Varsity Insider Facebook group at https://bit.ly/2MGSfvX.

Contact Alex Abrami at aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

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Vermont

Counties with the most born-and-bred residents in Vermont

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Counties with the most born-and-bred residents in Vermont


The combination of inflation and increased work-from-home opportunities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted migration patterns across the United States, the effects of which are still being felt in 2024, according to the latest Census Bureau data.

In the first year of the pandemic, migration out of densely populated, expensive cities like New York and San Francisco was especially notable. Many moved to Sun Belt states where the weather is warmer and the cost of living significantly lower.

But by the second year of the pandemic, it became clear that not everyone who was moving wanted to go far. A 2022 analysis of movement out of crowded cities from Stateline showed that many people leaving city centers moved to nearby suburbs in the same state. In Texas, for example, moves out of Houston rose 62% in the first month of the pandemic; meanwhile, the western suburb of Katy saw more new residents move in than any other part of the country.

According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, released in September 2023, 53.5% of people who moved in 2022 did so within the same county and an additional 24.3% remained in state, meaning more than three-quarters of movers stuck close to home.

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Many young people in particular are remaining in the state, town, or even house that they grew up in. Before the pandemic, the number of younger adults living with their parents was on the rise and those patterns have continued. A late 2023 survey released by Lending Tree found that 57% of millennials and Gen Zers live in their hometowns.

Many people choose not to leave the state they were raised in for reasons ranging from wanting to be close to family, to not having the resources to leave, to sticking with a lower cost of living.

In order to determine where people stay put in your home state, Stacker compiled a list of counties with the most born-and-bred residents in Vermont using data from the Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the highest percentage of residents who were born in the state according to the latest data, which is 2022 five-year estimates. The percentage of residents who were born in another state, a U.S. territory, and another country is also included.

Read on to find out where the most loyal Vermont residents live.

You may also like: These 10 car insurers have the highest market share in Vermont

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ICE deports Honduran family before they can apply to stay in Vermont

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ICE deports Honduran family before they can apply to stay in Vermont


Puedes leer la versión en español aquí.

Earlier this month, Greisy Mejia, a Honduran living in the U.S. without legal permission, visited a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service center in St. Albans with her 9-year-old daughter and infant son for what she was told was a routine check-in.

The next day, Mejia and her children were in Honduras, deported before her lawyer could even contact her.

Catalina Londono, a law student and legal fellow for the farmworker advocacy group Migrant Justice, was working on helping Mejia apply for a stay of removal – a temporary, discretionary order granting protection from deportation.

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“I’m in a state of shock,” Londono said after learning of the news. “How did all this happen in less than 24 hours?”

The speed of Mejia’s deportation, the circumstances under which ICE detained her, and the fact that the agency targeted a mother for removal before she could apply for a stay of removal, have shocked members of Vermont’s migrant community and Mejia’s supporters.

But while her case is exceptional in many ways, it’s part of a trend of stricter immigration enforcement in the state, which has driven deportations to the highest levels on record.

Gone in 24 hours

Mejia arrived at the St. Albans Department of Homeland Security facility early Tuesday morning with her two children and Londono.

She had a check-in scheduled later that month, but said ICE asked her to come in earlier and insisted she bring her two children, with the stated reason of ensuring they were still in her care. The agent even floated the idea of removing her ankle monitor and reducing the frequency of check-ins if the appointment went well, Londono said. The week prior, Mejia and Londono visited the station to pick up photocopies of Mejia’s passport in order to apply for a stay of removal – a temporary protection from deportation given at ICE’s discretion.

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“We had already planned on preparing and filing on Greisy’s behalf the stay of removal because we knew there was a possibility of her being detained, and we were trying to get ahead of it,” said Brett Stokes, Londono’s supervisor and Mejia’s attorney. “They pulled a fast one on us … before we had a chance to actually get the stay of removal filed.”

Things began normally at the meeting, Londono said. Mejia handed over documents requested by ICE. Then they were told to wait for a supervisor to conduct some kind of interview. What kind, the ICE agent could not say. And so they waited, without food, for hours.

Eventually, Londono stepped out to update Migrant Justice and Stokes, her supervising attorney. When she returned, Mejia and her children were gone; the guard told her they were taken for the interview.

But, Mejia said, there was no interview.

“The agents just waited for [Londono] to step outside, they took me inside with my kids to an office. I was told they would interview me, but no one spoke to me. They simply told me that I was arrested and that I was going to be deported,” Mejia told Vermont Public in Spanish. “I cried. I begged. I couldn’t go back to Honduras. I told them that it didn’t matter if they only took me. But officers told me that if I kept insisting for [my kids] to stay, they would put them up for adoption.”

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Briefly separated from her kids, Mejia was fingerprinted and photographed. Then, the three were placed in a black car and driven to an airport, where they had their shoes, phones, and other belongings confiscated before being put on a plane to San Antonio, Texas, Mejia said.

‘You’re not going to start crying’

Inside the facility in St. Albans, Londono sat in the lobby for about an hour, unaware of what was going on on the other side of the building. Eventually, she said, an ICE agent informed her that, based on the interview with Mejia – which Mejia says did not occur – the supervisor decided to detain the family.

Londono informed Migrant Justice, and the organization quickly set up a rally outside the station, holding signs and chanting in English and Spanish. Stokes, who had been on vacation at the time, drove down to St. Albans to try to speak to Mejia.

Courtesy

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Migrant Justice held a rally outside the DHS site in St. Albans.

The rally was short-lived, however, when they learned Mejia was no longer at the station. Where she was was a mystery. ICE would not give Stokes any information on her location, even after he filled out a required form certifying himself as Mejia’s attorney.

Migrant Justice assumed Mejia was moved to a detention facility that held children, of which there are none in Vermont. They planned to publish a petition the following morning publicizing her case, while Stokes planned to file for the stay of removal in Boston.

Not knowing she was already in the process of being ferried out of the country, Mejia’s supporters were somewhat hopeful they could stay her deportation.

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“If ICE is following their own procedures, they cannot deport her immediately,” Will Lambeck, a spokesperson for Migrant Justice, said at the time. “Even though she has been detained, she has the legal right for what is known as a ‘reasonable fear screening’ and they should not deport her without giving her that reasonable fear screening.”

A reasonable fear screening or interview is a process which allows an immigrant facing deportation to have their removal stayed if they can demonstrate a reasonable fear of torture or persecution in their country.

But no one heard from Mejia until around 7 a.m. the following day. After arriving in San Antonio, Mejia said, she and her children were put in another car. She begged a woman in plainclothes, who Mejia believed worked with ICE or as a police officer, to call her partner in Vermont.

“And she said to me, ‘I’ll let you do one call… You’re not going to start crying, don’t say where you are, just say you are going to Honduras,’” said Mejia in Spanish. “So I called my [partner] and said, ‘I’m going to Honduras and I can’t say any more. Send someone to pick me up.’ That is all I could say.”

Later that day, Mejia called Londono for the first time since her detainment, confirming the news. She, and her children, were in Honduras.

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ICE’s Boston Field Office, which covers Vermont, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls for comment on the case.

‘Like during the Trump administration’

Mejia and her children, facing organized crime in their native country, fled to the U.S. in 2023 declaring themselves for asylum at the southern border. They were then deported under a process called expedited removal, which allows a low-level immigration official to order a deportation. It’s supposed to give the person an opportunity to apply for asylum if they have what the government calls credible fear of danger in her native country, but Mejia says her pleas were ignored.

That isn’t uncommon, said Kathleen Bush-Joseph, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

“Migrants report [expressions of fear being ignored] often and that’s been a major concern of immigrant advocates right now,” Bush-Joseph said. “They’re saying it’s actually gotten way worse with Customs and Border Protection allegedly not giving people the opportunity to be referred for a credible interview when they’re expressing fear, and then they’re being removed through expedited removal very quickly.”

Mejia returned to the U.S. last year, where she and her children were kidnapped and held for ransom, said Stokes. They were able to reach a police officer and escape and, upon being handed over to Border Patrol, were placed under an order of supervision, requiring Mejia to wear an ankle monitor and report to ICE. She moved to Vermont where her partner lives.

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Mejia’s kidnapping case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, a separate part of ICE than Enforcement and Removal Operations, said Jill Martin Diaz, executive director of the Vermont Asylum Assistance Project and co-counsel in Mejia’s case. The kidnapping, and Mejia’s participation in the investigation, make her eligible for a T visa, for victims of human trafficking, Diaz said.

The fact that one division of ICE was working with Mejia to prosecute kidnappers and the other deported her is an example of how Mejia’s case stands out, Diaz said – the first they can recall in their 10-year career.

“It’s a strange practice, because it’s inconsistent with the agency’s own policy,” Diaz said. “And frankly, it is very resonant of what the standard of practice was like during the Trump administration.”

Another violation of agency policy: ignoring Mejia’s declaration of fear of returning to her country.

The fact she was deported previously meant Mejia was ineligible for a credible fear interview, even though she wasn’t given one originally. But she was eligible for a reasonable fear interview, a separate, more rigorous process which can’t grant asylum but can stave off deportation. Mejia said she clearly expressed fear of returning to Honduras at the station, even asking to be deported to other nearby countries, to no avail.

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Stokes and Londono said they will continue to work on getting Mejia a T visa so she can return to and live in the country as a resident.

Record levels of deportations

While immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, frontline officers have broad discretion in which cases they choose to pursue. In the past, Diaz said, ICE offices in Vermont, staffed by longtime community members, were more amenable.

“We had lines of communication so that we could engage respectfully, making sure that there’s a holistic view of every case,” Diaz said. “So that there wouldn’t be one branch trying to deport someone while another branch was trying to investigate the trafficking they suffered, for example.”

Data going back to 2003 show deportations in Vermont reached record levels in the last two years. Over two-thirds of those who were removed were not convicted of any crime.

Nationwide, deportations have risen to pre-pandemic levels since the end of Title 42 in May 2023, said Bush-Joseph.

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“When the Biden administration stopped using Title 42, the pandemic-era health measure, they ramped up enforcement under Title 8, the normal immigration laws of the U.S., and they were increasing deportations in conjunction with that,” Bush-Joseph said.

Diaz believes pandemic-era attrition hollowed out the offices, and the temporary staff who filled those roles, having little to no connection to the community, are more aggressive in enforcement. Their hope is that permanent staff will be willing to return to the previous era of enforcement and removal.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment on the staffing issue, or the rise in deportations.

For now though, they’re on high alert for clients they wouldn’t expect to be targeted for removal in years prior. For Mejia, whether or not ICE violated its policy will not bring her back; her only hope is a T visa.

According to Stokes, Mejia’s attorney, the Vermont congressional delegation — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch and Congresswoman Becca Balint — are aware of her case. He is asking Mejia’s supporters to contact them as well as state representatives.

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Stokes said they don’t have the power to grant Mejia and her children visas, but they can put pressure on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite the process.

María Aguirre provided translation assistance for quotations.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message. Or contact the reporter directly at corey.dockser@vermontpublic.org.





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‘A historic moment’: Vermont delegates endorse Kamala Harris for president

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‘A historic moment’: Vermont delegates endorse Kamala Harris for president


Vermont’s 16 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention voted unanimously to endorse Vice President Kamala Harris for president, according to a statement released by the Vermont Democratic Party.

The delegation’s announcement on Monday came just a day after President Joe Biden, who had been the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, dropped out of the race and backed Harris as his replacement. Since then, Harris has secured enough delegates − including Vermont’s own − to clinch the Democratic nomination.

The official nomination is scheduled to take place at the Democratic National Convention starting Aug. 19 in Chicago.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with a record number of people signing up to volunteer to elect Democrats up and down the ticket in November,” said Vermont Democrat Party Chair David Glidden in the party’s press release. “I’m proud to be part of such a historic moment.”

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Vermont’s pledged delegates − who were picked in May and June by prominent state Democrats − made their endorsement decision during an unofficial online meeting. Despite throwing their support behind Harris, the delegates are not bound to a specific candidate now that Biden, who won the March primary, is out of the race.

Ten other delegates from Vermont will also attend the August convention, including eight automatic delegates − also known as superdelegates or unpledged delegates − and two alternate delegates. Automatic delegates, which consist of influential Democrats like members of Congress or party leaders, serve as tiebreakers should voting continue past the first round.

Welch, Pieciak, Balint endorse Harris, while Sanders holds off

In addition to the DNC’s 16 pledged delegates this year, several other big names in Vermont politics have also endorsed Harris for president since Biden dropped out on Sunday, July 21.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt. − one of the few major politicians in the Green Mountain State to call for Biden to step down − is among the most recent Vermonters to lend support to Harris. Welch initially neglected to endorse Harris, instead advocating for the party to consider all potential options for a new nominee, but changed his position on Tuesday morning after Harris earned the favor of most of the country’s Democratic delegates.

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“There is no candidate better equipped to take on Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans and protect our democracy, to advance the Biden agenda, and help strengthen our communities in Vermont − and across America,” Welch said in his endorsement statement, lauding Harris’s background as a prosecutor and her support for reproductive freedom and “hardworking families.”

“She has reinvigorated this campaign,” Welch added.

Vermont State Treasurer Mike Pieciak, D-Vt., endorsed Harris late Monday afternoon, describing her in a statement as having been “an invaluable partner to the President.”

“Her leadership has helped create millions of good-paying jobs, lowered healthcare costs for seniors, and delivered the most robust climate agenda in U.S history,” Pieciak said. “I trust Kamala Harris to finish the job.”

Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., was the first major Vermont politician to throw her support behind the U.S vice president. Following Biden’s announcement on Sunday, Balint wrote on X that “it’s time for all of us to get to work and secure @KamalaHarris in the White House.”

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Of Vermont’s three members of Congress, only Sen. Bernie Sanders has yet to officially endorse Harris for president, though he told CNN on Monday evening that “I will do everything I can to make sure that Trump is defeated and that she is elected.” Sanders, an independent, has twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination.

Although Sanders told CNN he expects to lend his official support to Harris eventually, he said he is holding off his endorsement until he knows for certain that Harris “will stand up strongly with an agenda that speaks to the long neglected needs of working families.”

Balint, Welch and Sanders are all automatic delegates.

Megan Stewart is a government accountability reporter for the Burlington Free Press. Contact her at mstewartyounger@gannett.com.



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