Dear friends of Migrant Justice,
Below you will find:
1) HUMAN RIGHTS VICTORY! Farm Workers, Farmers, and Allies Changing History in the VT State House. VT is Driving Towards Human Rights with S-238!
2) TAKE ACTION TO DRIVE TOWARDS HUMAN RIGHTS WITH S-238:
1) HUMAN RIGHTS VICTORY!
Farm Workers, Farmers and Allies Changing History in the VT State House
VT is Driving Towards Human Rights with S-238!
In late December, Migrant Justice got word at a dairy farmer gathering, that there was some sort of bill in the Senate about establishing ‘A VT Migrant Guest Worker Program’. And yet nobody we talked to--farmers, farm workers, the Farm Bureau, or even the Secretary of Agriculture, seemed to know anything about it. We found it on-line and looked it over. We met and asked our farm worker members if we could make it work for the good of the farming community and to advance farm worker community goals. The answer was a resounding yes--- BUT only if we could make it deliver a concrete benefit: access to drivers' licenses for our migrant workers.
Now, just 2 months later and we are well positioned to join the States of New Mexico and Washington to affirm that all residents, regardless of immigration status, deserve the right to move freely. But how we got here is important in order to understand how to keep the S-238 bus moving towards human rights in VT.
The first hearing for S-238 was Thursday February 2cnd with the Senate Agricultural Committee. Migrant Justice requested time to do some general education about the farm worker community needs and goals as it related to S-238. This was the beginning of what would be a transformation of the entire Senate Agricultural Committee. Two weeks later, they scrambled to find a bigger room to accommodate a packed house of farm workers and farmers eager to testify for S-238 and access to drivers' licenses for our migrant workers. Over the past 2 months a non-traditional alliance of folks hopped on board the S-238 bus. Farm workers, farmers, the VT Farm Bureau, and the faith community climbed aboard. The State Police spoke of the importance of Vermont community members having access to ID in order to identify themselves and be identified if need be. The DMV affirmed their own commitment in recent days.
After 2 months of around-the-clock organizing the entire Senate Agricultural Committee were not only on board the bus--they started driving it. They worked to transform the bill into a drivers' license bill. They rallied to push it out to the Senate Transportation Committee in time for the crossover date and reached out to their colleagues. They held special sessions with the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulates and invited colleagues. Last Wednesday Senators Kittell, Starr, and Baruth dropped in on our Migrant Justice state house day of action and were greeted with a round of applause to over 30 allies and 20 farm workers. Senator Kittell, chair of Senate Agriculture told the packed room, "And for these folks not to be able to move around, not have access to driver's license, not to feel secure, to have some feelings of fear in our Vermont communities - that wasn't acceptable to me."
The next day the headline on VPR was "Shumlin Supports Driver's License Program for Farm Workers." Finally, it appeared that Governor Shumlin was on the S-238 bus and driving with us towards human rights! This was a huge shift from a month ago, where VPR reported the Governor, "supported an ID card but stopped short of endorsing a drivers' license". This change in position is testimony to the power of grassroots organizing--and more specifically to the moving testimonies of farm workers and farmers who, when united, are proving to be an unstoppable force. In conversations with farmers over the past 2 months, the governor has been repeatedly asked to support the bill. These personal conversations, from a diversity of constituents, clearly made a difference.
With the Governor behind the bill Migrant Justice was told that Senate Transportation would likely hop on the S-238 bus too. However, last Thursday, S-238's future seemed uncertain as Senate Transportation seemed intent on putting up our first major red light. Then, Migrant Justice witnessed a wonderful moment of state house history unfold. Senate Agriculture Committee members Sara Kittell, Bobby Starr, and Phillip Baruth walked out of their own committee meeting and walked into the Senate Transportation Committee Meeting sporting S-238 stickers and making a last minute appeal to the Senate Transportation Committee to push the bill forward. But in the end supporters were told by Senator Mazza that he needed more time and that he would only agree to a study.
Fortunately, Migrant Justice had a plan B. We had already scheduled a meeting with the Governor's office, and asked them to reach out to the major players that would make or break S-238. We met in the Executive Chamber with the Governor's Legal Counsel, Senate Transportation Chair Mazza, Senate Agriculture Chair Kittell and Baruth, the heads of the DMV, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Agriculture. Danilo Lopez stuck with our message, "Right now the very people who sustain Vermont's dairy farms are not free to move about in VT. You are all in a position to change this and I urge you to use your power to act now and push S-238 forward."
With everyone in the room clearly in agreement that Vermont needs to make accessible driver's licenses to migrant workers it looked for a moment that the S-238 bus might be unstoppable. But the Governor's office, Senate Transportation and other players in the room put on the brakes rather than kick S-238 into a higher gear. The only way forward that all players would agree to was a study focused on how to implement a program in order to make accessible VT ID and drivers' licenses to migrant workers. Migrant Justice and all our allies are gearing up for a long-term struggle to keep this momentum growing. Fortunately, all players at the table aren't asking whether we should or shouldn't have this legislation. Rather, this study is a call to action to create a solid piece of human rights legislation to introduce in January 2013 in order to create a path to drivers' licenses and Non-driver ID cards for our migrant workers.
Migrant Justice was ready to drive the S-238 bus all the way to Human Rights this session. There is no wrong time for Human Rights. In the end the Senate Agricultural Committee was on board too and we thank them for their courageous advocacy. But this is not a loss. Rather this is a huge human rights victory that was unimaginable even just two weeks ago. Now, our struggle is clearer then ever. Vermont migrant workers WILL have access to ID and driver's licenses and we look forward to working with all of you to continue this drive to Human Rights. And perhaps more importantly, for the first time in State House history farm workers and farmers are getting organized to fight together for Immigrant Rights and Agriculturual Justice!
2) TAKE ACTION TO HELP US WIN THE DRIVE TOWARDS HUMAN RIGHTS WITH S-238!
Please call the Sergeant and Arms all day Thursday and Friday (before 12noon) at 802-828-2228 AND ASK THEM TO LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR ALL OF your Senators:
“Please VOTE for S-238 and defend the bill as reported by Senator Baruth to create a study committee to determine HOW to issue ID and driver's licenses to our migrant workers."
Special Thanks if you have Senators on the Senate Agricultural Committee (Kittell, Baruth, Starr, and Giard, and Campbell) or Senators White, Pollina and Ashe:
"Thank you so much for your courageous leadership on S-238! We look forward to working with you on this until our migrant workers have the human right of freedom of movement!.
The Senate Agricultural Committee became champions of S-238 and in order for us to create this road to drivers' licenses we need to thank those who helped us fight. Please take a moment to express your support and thanks to ALL of our Senate Agricultural Committee Members!
Senator Phillip Baruth, one of our tireless champions of S-238 in the State House, will be on VT Edition with Senator Brock who told Migrant Justice, 'If they (migrant workers) are here illegally they shouldn't have any rights." This is sure to be an interesting segment and will also feature an interview with Danilo Lopez of Migrant Justice. Please call in to show that Vermont DOES support S-238 and believes in the fundamental human rights of all our community members, regardless of immigration status. Please take a moment to review our talking points.
Help us Win the BATTLE OF THE STORY in the media on S-238! WRITE Letters to the Editor! Educate the Press! There have already been some very biased and incomplete reports and some very negative opinion pieces on this issue.
We've done a great job over the past years creating a more humane and thoughtful dialogue about immigration in Vermont; lets keep shaping public debate in a positive light.
Help us track media coverage - please email us at info [at] migrantjustice [dot] net