Vt. driver's license debate touches on plight of migrant workers

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Should migrant farm workers, some of whom are not citizens, be allowed to apply for a driver’s license?

That question is being considered this week by the Vermont Legislature. No decisions are expected anytime soon; instead, the idea is to appoint a study commission.

On Tuesday, members of the Vermont House Transportation Committee heard testimony from a farm worker who couldn’t get a ride to the emergency room after being kicked by a bull. His co-workers didn’t have Vermont driver’s licenses and he was afraid to call an ambulance. He ended up waiting for 24 hours after the accident ― until his employer could arrange a ride.  

The worker in this situation, Danilo Lopez, pointed out that he and his co-workers contribute to the state’s economy.

“Without me and my co-workers, a lot of these farms wouldn’t be here,” he was quoted in this article by the Burlington Free Press.

Lopez’ story illustrates the plight that many migrant workers face ― feeling confined to the farm because they fear deportation. Read “When will immigrant workers emerge from the shadows?,” which talks about the tragic death of another migrant worker in Vermont a few years ago and how none of his co-workers were able to come to the vigil for fear of deportation or the fact they had to work.

The latest article in the Burlington Free Press prompted a lively debate in the reader comment section. Most of the readers were against the idea of granting driver’s licenses to migrant farm workers.

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pensilvania  |  April, 05, 2012 at 09:24 PM

the immigrant workers are HUMAN BEINGS and deserve the right to work and put on the table the food for your familys

pa  |  April, 05, 2012 at 09:53 PM

There needs to be a simpler streamlined process of documentation for migrant workers to allow them legal access for employment purposes. I do not support illegal immigration and do not believe they should be permitted to have drivers licenses, voting priveledges or entitlements (including social/medical services). However, someone here legally and documented, could be considered to hold some sort of temporary drivers license (expires when their work visa does). Of course they would have to pass the test (in English) and demonstrate safe driving techniques. Why is this too difficult for our federal government to straighten out???

WA  |  April, 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM

This is terrible, we have had Hispanic help for years, they are like my family and their values both family and work are better than some of my own friends. These are workers doing a job that most American's won't do. I can't even imagine my friends milking cows, working in the fields or picking fruit. How terrible that this man could not get the medical help he deserved. SHAME ON YOU!

IA  |  April, 08, 2012 at 10:21 PM

I agree with gotmilk. To terri, I accept that illegal immigrants have some redeeming values. Great and wealthy criminals in history have donated generously to good causes. That doesn't make their actions any less criminal. I hire legal employees and have to compete with those who refuse to do the same. My experience has shown that employees that do not communicate well, regardless of native language, are much more at risk of injury and those without insurance(health or vehicle liability) place a burden upon the rest of us simply for the benefit of your farm. Take some personal responsibility and hire legal workers. SHAME ON WHO?

VA  |  April, 06, 2012 at 06:22 AM

It took his employer 24 hours to assist an injured employee?!

vermont  |  April, 23, 2012 at 04:56 PM

Might I remind everyone that our ancestors were not native to this country, they did not sprout under a cabbage leaf here in America...they came from elsewhere ...Europe or Asia or South America or wherever. Who are we to now judge who can be here and who can't? What gives us the right? This is one planet. Why the hell can't we all just get along?

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