Vermont migrant workers filled the halls of the Statehouse Wednesday, fighting for a license to drive.
"Our main goal then is to have our voice heard," said Danilo Lopez, a migrant worker.
The workers are part of the group Migrant Justice and were speaking out in the first of a series of forums with Vermont leaders and legislators. The goal of the gatherings is to tackle the debate over granting Vermont driver's licenses to illegal and undocumented migrant workers.
"The importance of these driver's licenses-- right now we feel like children on the farm. We depend on other people to move around and many times when those people are not around, then we don't have access to going to the doctor, to getting groceries, to meeting our basic needs," Lopez said.
Sen. Peg Flory led the back and forth. The senator says she and others were on hand to listen, but admits getting at the heart of the problem will be key as the debate moves forward.
"Is the issue undocumented people driving illegally, is the issue trying to get some way to identify and be able to provide insurance to folks we're going to be driving anyway," said Flory, R-Rutland County.
Flory says there could be room for compromise in exploring the idea of an international license for the migrant workers, but she is not convinced a Vermont license is the answer.
"I have difficulty with that because it's used for more than just driving purposes. It's used for banking. It's used for voting. It is for a lot of different things," she said.
Lopez knows he has critics, but argues folks fighting the Vermont license for him and others should think before they eat.
"Why not think about this when you have a piece of cheese or your eating? Think about the labor and the people who are behind that food and the fact that we feel like prisoners here in the state of Vermont," Lopez said.
Wednesday's forum included leaders from across the country addressing how similar issues are handled in their own states.
The group is slated to meet up to four times between now and January before organizers share their findings with lawmakers.
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