NEWPORT CITY – Vermont lawmakers are working on an identification card for legal immigrant workers.
That’s the word Sen. Robert Starr of North Troy, who serves on the Senate Committee of Appropriations and Senate Committee of Agriculture, brought to Monday’s Legislative Breakfast at the Eastside Restaurant.
“These 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,” said Starr. “The law enforcement people seem to give them a hard time about their residency and all that.”
There are about 1,500 immigrants working on dairy farms in the state, Starr said. “We don’t need to have people come here, work hard and be abused by anybody,” said Starr.
The card will be similar in format to a driver's license.
The card doesn’t sit well with Pam Ladds, who identifies herself as part of the 99 percent and an immigrant.
“If 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 won’t hurt you,” said Ladds.
“Instead of looking at the immigrant, how about looking at the law enforcement who are over zealous, who frequently can be abusive.”
Immigrants are stopped frequently, said Ladds, who doesn’t carry identification when she is walking and questions what will happen if she gets stopped without her card.
“I think we’re on the same page on this issue,” answered Starr. “Most of the law enforcement people that are giving these folks a hard time are federal employees.”
This is something federal legislation has to deal with, said Starr, who said he agrees with Ladds.
“The problem is not with our immigrants that come here, it’s basically with our police and the way they’re trained to handle these situations,” said Starr. He said legislators have been told police treated an American citizen badly when she was transporting some immigrants to medical appointments. However, it’s not the local or state police that are the problem. “It’s mainly federal law enforcement people that are giving these people a hard time.”
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 Workers’ Compensation claim to receive their payments on an electronic pay card. Testimony revealed that 30 percent of Vermonters don’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.
“If we don’t do it, the federal government will do it for us and we’ll have to use their system,” said Young. “We'd rather have our own system.”
Chet Greenwood asked Young how his party could pass a bill when it doesn’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 didn’t support the healthcare bill when lawmakers started to set it up last year because he didn’t know much about it.