Friday October 5, 2012

MONTPELIER (AP) -- A special Vermont legislative committee is looking into whether immigrants working on Vermont farms should be allowed to obtain drivers’ licenses.

Advocates told the committee Wednesday that there are no state or federal laws that would prevent the workers from being licensed to drive.

But the president of the Vermont Bankers Association said if illegal immigrants have drivers’ licenses, then banks may have to request other forms of identification from customers.

"If you compromise or water down, if you will, the system for awarding a driver’s license in Vermont, then we can really no longer rely on it as a valid form of identification," said association’s president Chris D’Elia. "So you would have to bring in maybe a birth certificate, a Social Security card or passport, or other form of documentation."

The dairy farm workers are mainly from Mexico. They’re often stuck in remote locations and must rely on employers for rides.

Rutland Sen. Peg Flory, chairwoman of the study committee, wants to know if there are any long term impacts of making the licenses available to the farmworkers.

"The license says you are a legal Vermont resident," Flory said. "That’s what the requirements on our license are. So if we’re issuing them to undocumented workers that are not legal, Vermont residents, does that weaken what our Vermont license means?"

The committee is in the fact-finding stage, Flory said.