NEWPORT CITY â€“ Vermont lawmakers are working on an identification card for legal immigrant workers.
Thatâ€™s the word Sen. Robert Starr of North Troy, who serves on the Senate Committee of Appropriations and Senate Committee of Agriculture, brought to Mondayâ€™s Legislative Breakfast at the Eastside Restaurant.Â
â€śThese are for people who came here legally but they are constantly harassed when they go to the store shopping, when they go for medical help or even when they congregate and they have a day off to visit each other,â€ť said Starr. â€śThe law enforcement people seem to give them a hard time about their residency and all that.â€ť
There are about 1,500 immigrants working on dairy farms in the state, Starr said.Â â€śWe donâ€™t need to have people come here, work hard and be abused by anybody,â€ť said Starr.
The card will be similar in format to a driver's license.
The card doesnâ€™t sit well with Pam Ladds, who identifies herself as part of the 99 percent and an immigrant.
â€śIf you give an immigrant an ID card, it is a bit like giving a feather to a chicken and saying wave this in front of the fox and it wonâ€™t hurt you,â€ť said Ladds.
â€śInstead of looking at the immigrant, how about looking at the law enforcement who are over zealous, who frequently can be abusive.â€ť
Immigrants are stopped frequently, said Ladds, who doesnâ€™t carry identification when she is walking and questions what will happen if she gets stopped without her card. Â
â€śI think weâ€™re on the same page on this issue,â€ť answered Starr. â€śMost of the law enforcement people that are giving these folks a hard time are federal employees.â€ť
This is something federal legislation has to deal with, said Starr, who said he agrees with Ladds.
â€śThe problem is not with our immigrants that come here, itâ€™s basically with our police and the way theyâ€™re trained to handle these situations,â€ť said Starr. He said legislators have been told police treated an American citizen badly when she was transporting some immigrants to medical appointments. However, itâ€™s not the local or state police that are the problem. â€śItâ€™s mainly federal law enforcement people that are giving these people a hard time.â€ťÂ
Rep. Sam Young of Glover, who serves on the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, said his committee passed a bill that allows recipients of a Workersâ€™ Compensation claim to receive their payments on an electronic pay card. Testimony revealed that 30 percent of Vermonters donâ€™t have a bank account, Young said.
Last week lawmakers debated a healthcare bill that sets up a healthcare exchange, something the state is required to do as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.Â
â€śIf we donâ€™t do it, the federal government will do it for us and weâ€™ll have to use their system,â€ť said Young. â€śWe'd rather have our own system.â€ť
Chet Greenwood asked Young how his party could pass a bill when it doesnâ€™t know what it will cost or what it will cover, as in the case of the healthcare exchange. He said there are 40,000 uninsured Vermonters. Greenwood also said not everyone who goes through the exchange would be eligible for a tax credit.
In the exchange, said Young, private insurance carriers would offer their services. The cost would be about the same as it is now. Young also said three quarters of Vermonters would get a reimbursable tax credit.
Starr said he didnâ€™t support the healthcare bill when lawmakers started to set it up last year because he didnâ€™t know much about it.