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Migrant workers set to legally drive in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Migrant workers set to legally drive in Vermont

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Javier Franco, 50, enjoys sharing photos of his wife and four children. He hasn't seen them in seven years, ever since he left Mexico. He says he came to Vermont to give them a better life back home.

"I wouldn't have been able to give my family the comfort of having a house," he said through a translator. "It would have been more difficult sending my children to school, taking care of their basic needs and all the materials they need for school."

Javier has become a grandfather since he got to Vermont. He hopes to go back to Mexico in two years.

Each morning at 6 a.m., Javier is up and heading to the barn on a dairy farm in Chittenden County. He spends his days cleaning out the barn and milking the cows. While all this hard work has provided a good life for his family, he admits it can be lonely.

"Life for any migrant worker is full of being alone, by yourself, not having contact with the rest of the community," he said.

That is about to change for people like Javier.

"A person who is here who cannot prove their legal status here in the United States now has the ability to come in. First, they will have to get a learner's permit and complete that phase of their training successfully, and then they'll be eligible to complete our driver's test," said Robert Ide, the commissioner of the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Now when you go to the DMV website and look under licenses, permits and IDs, there is a link for undocumented residents. They can get a Driving Privilege Card or a Learner Privilege Card. They have to prove their identity, their residency in Vermont and have Social Security verification, even if that means a letter verifying they can't get a Social Security number. 

Reporter Julie Kelley: Having a driver's privilege card-- what does that mean for you?

Javier Franco: First of all, it's a matter of being independent.

Right now, Javier has no way to leave the farm unless someone else can give him a ride. At 50 years old, one of his biggest concerns is getting to the doctor.

Javier Franco: My life will definitely change. Whenever I have a break or a day off I will be able to go visit my friends or go to church or go play a sport, do whatever I need with my free time.

Julie Kelley: That's not something you do now?

Javier Franco: No, never. No, it's work, home, work, home.

He says the solitude of that life can be lonely and he looks forward to being a part of a community that he has lived and worked in for many years now.

There are some people who have come out against this, concerned about what it means for security. In the end, Vermont lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the law.

Since the beginning of January, the DMV has received applications for 7,516 licenses. Of those, 46 percent are for privilege cards, or just over 3,400. The DMV says anyone can get a privilege card, so that number is not just migrant workers.

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