Fighting for housing, healthcare, labor rights, and higher education

Immigrant leaders recently returned to the Vermont State House to fight for more equitable and inclusive policies. With the 2024 legislative session at the halfway point, Migrant Justice continues to push for new laws that will stop discrimination and expand access to housing, healthcare, labor rights and higher education. Many of you have contacted your legislators to support these initiatives, and this pressure is having an impact!

On March 14th, over a dozen Migrant Justice members traveled from around Vermont to spend the day in the state capitol. Members joined up with ally organizations, spoke with legislators, provided committee testimony, and were formally recognized on the floor of the House of Representatives, receiving a standing ovation from the assembled lawmakers in appreciation of the years of courageous organizing to make Vermont a better state.

Migrant Justice is supporting a number of bills this legislative session:

  1. Education Equity for Immigrant Students: Migrant Justice and others have proposed a measure to expand access to higher education by guaranteeing all Vermont residents – regardless of immigration status – in-state tuition rates and need-based financial aid at public colleges. While conversations are ongoing, more work is needed to convince legislators to take up the bill this session.
  2. Expanding Access to Medicaid and Dr. Dynasaur: We continue to support efforts led by the Vermont Workers’ Center to expand Medicaid access for low-income Vermonters, as a step on the road to universal healthcare. While large parts of the bill have been turned into a study committee, the proposal would still expand the Immigrant Health Insurance Program (IHIP) – which Migrant Justice helped establish in 2021 – to provide coverage to immigrant Vermonters up to age 21. A vote in the House is expected this week.
  3. Collective Bargaining Rights for Farmworkers: Last year, we joined a coalition led by the Vermont State Labor Council to support the Vermont PRO Act, a broad measure expanding labor rights. Among the proposed protections, the bill would allow agricultural workers the right to form labor unions. The proposal passed the Senate last year and will be taken up in the House later this session.
  4. Housing Access for Immigrant Families: Finally, our proposal to ban housing discrimination based on immigration status, and to prohibit landlords from requesting social security numbers from prospective tenants, is moving forward. We have testified multiple times in committee and expect the Senate to take the issue back up in the coming weeks.

At the State House, Diego spoke to legislators, providing testimony about his experience with housing discrimination in Vermont and urging them to take action.

I spend my days working so that others will have a roof over their heads, but when I try to find a home for my family and myself, all I find are closed doors. I have even been denied an apartment at the very same houses that I had helped build!

We face lots of discrimination and racism in the housing system. In one place that we looked at, the listing was for a certain amount and said that utilities were included. But when we went to see the apartment, and the landlord saw that we were immigrants without a social security number, the price he told us went up by $400 per month and he told us utilities would not be included.

We contribute to this state in many ways, but we aren’t just here to provide our labor. We are here because we are part of Vermont and this state needs to ensure that we have the same opportunities and access to housing as any other person.

Check out the photos below, then make a donation to keep moving this work forward. Please pitch in $15 to cover the costs of lunch and gas for an immigrant leader to spend the day at the State House fighting for these proposals!