Legal Testimony Indicates No Laws Prohibit VT From Extending Access to Licenes/ID to Undcoumented VT Residents
Posted Tue, 10/02/2012 - 6:15pm
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2012
Brendan O'Neill, 802-825-1609; 802-658-6770 firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Testimony Indicates No Laws Prohibit Vermont From Extending Access to Licenses for Undocumented Residents
Wednesday, October 3rd, VT State House, Room 10
11:15am-12:30pm- Testimony from National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and ACLU-VT
12:30pm-1:30pm Migrant Justice press conference/interviews in Vermont Statehouse
Wednesday, October 3rd. Montpelier, VT-- The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) and the ACLU-VT will testify from approximately 11:15-12:30 on Wednesday before the Legislative Committee charged with exploring how Vermont could create access to Driver's Licenses/ID for undocumented residents. Specifically, NESRI will present a summary of extensive legal research that found absolutely no federal or state laws prohibiting Vermont from creating a licensing framework that is accessible to the state's undocumented residents. The testimony and research can be found here.
Danilo Lopez, a Migrant Justice farmworker spokesperson shares, "What we learn from this research is that there are no laws preventing Vermont from creating access to licenses/ID for undocumented people. Now, we'll see if the committee has the will to recommend that the legislature create access to licenses/ID for our communities so that we can live and work here with more dignity." Migrant Justice also released an updated 'Frequently Asked Questions," available here.
Dan Barret from the ACLU-VT, in response to misinformation about how this might affect VT finance and banking shares, "Federal regulations give banks a wide range of choices when it comes to establishing the identity of their customers. Simply put, the legislative changes being considered by the committee would not add any burdensome procedures to banking in Vermont."
Additionally, the committee will take testimony from several dairy farmers at approximately 1:50 pm including Ned Brannon, a dairy farmer, who shares, "I support this because migrant workers are humans, just like me, and should have the right to move freely. My brother’s farm is 5 miles away, it would be nice if farmworkers could drive my truck there. I can’t imagine what life is like without a license in Vermont, being so rural."
Background: In January 2012 Senator White introduced a bill to establish a 'Vermont Guest Worker Program'. However, the Senate Agricultural Committee quickly established that the State of Vermont has no legal authority to create Guest Worker Programs. After taking extensive testimony from farmworkers, farmers, the VT Farm Bureau, State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles, UVM Extension, legal experts, health experts, and considering results from the "Vermonter Poll" and various academic studies, the Senate Agricultural Committee—with enthusiastic support from the farmworker and farmer communities—transformed Senator White's "S-238" to address fundamental human needs and rights within the power of the State of Vermont to address: "The general assembly finds that migrant workers in Vermont face significant challenges based on their current inability to apply for Vermont driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards, including the inabilities to travel and access services, medical care, and purchase basic necessities, to officially identify themselves or be identified, and to fulfill typical responsibilities of their employment that require them to legally drive." −S-238
The committee found that there were no conflicts with federal law, including the REAL ID Act. The bill was passed unanimously and sent over to Senate transportation, which chose to send the bill to the Senate floor as a study committee. The study committee passed the Senate with unanimous support and the House with near-unanimous support.