Making History: Driver’s License Bill Passes Unanimously in Senate Agriculture Committee

Driver’s License Bill Passes Unanimously in Senate Agriculture Committee;Farmers, Farmworkers, Senators and Community Allies gear up for March 14th State House Day of Action

On Friday, March 2nd, after weeks of hard work by Migrant Justice and allies, the Vermont Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously voted on a bill that would make licenses accessible to everyone living and working in Vermont, regardless of whether they have access to a Social Security Number.

Over Lopez was one of a dozen farmworkers who went nearly sleepless to attend State House hearings during the two weeks prior to the committee’s approval. Leading a press conference last week in the State House, he noted, “We are here to represent more farmworkers that could not be here because of transportation difficulties. If everyone here in Vermont could have a driver’s license, it would be a different story.” Echoing the comments of the farmworkers who spoke at his side, he said, “With a license we could go to the store to buy food, to see our friends, and most importantly to come out of the darkness and say we are here, to say we are here not only to work but also to interact with our neighbors. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, we’re all humans.”

On Friday morning, as the committee was wrapping up for the week and it wasn’t clear whether they would vote on this bill, Migrant Justice reached out to their partners at the Vermont Worker’s Center, who in turned reached out to members of the Put People First campaign. Messages of support for the bill started to pour into the committee room from a broad spectrum of allies, including, farmers, and union allies. By the days end, the committee passed the bill unanimously.

According to State Senator and Agriculture Committee member Phillip Baruth, “The bill is admirably simple: it adds a Mexican or Guatamalan consular ID and passport to the list of documents accepted for an operator’s license. In that way, the bill avoids a thousand pitfalls; it doesn’t speak to immigration status, and in the highly unlikely event that the federal government fully requires the Real ID system it has long threatened, our statute would expire immediately.” During testimony last week, Natalia Fajardo of Migrant Justice spoke about similar policies that have already been successfully implemented in New Mexico, Utah and Washington.

After two weeks of testimony from farmers, farmworkers, the Vermont Farm Bureau, the Addison County Farm Worker Coalition, UVM Extension, the ACLU, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the State Police, Vermont State Representatives, and many others, Baruth made his committee’s support clear: “Expect a fight over this bill at one point or another; expect also that the migrant worker community and their allies across the state will be ready for it. And finally, expect that Senate Agriculture — long the redheaded stepchild of the chamber’s committee system, but now a lean mean legislating machine — will be right there beside them.”

Hand-in-hand with Vermont farmers and allies across the state, Migrant Justice is gearing up for a State House Action Day in Montpelier the morning of Wednesday, March 14.

Register here to participate!