MONTPELIER — A legislative committee evaluating migrant worker issues, such as the ability to drive legally, will weigh another factor in the discussion Wednesday: banks.
A banking association representative plans to testify Wednesday at a committee meeting. He expects to suggest that if state Department of Motor Vehicles requirements were ever lessened for identity documents, banks in the state would need customers to provide documentation themselves, such as a birth certificate, for services like opening a bank account.
“If there’s less than a robust system in place to ... identify through other forms of documentation and lists that the individual is who they say they are, that’s a big problem,” said Christopher D’Elia, president of the Vermont Bankers Association, who is slated to testify at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Statehouse.
But Natalia Fajardo, a worker for the advocacy organization Migrant Justice, contests that. She said the DMV could expand the list of criteria the department uses for people trying to obtain driver’s licenses, such as through additional identity or Vermont residency requirements.
She said doing so wouldn’t jeopardize or dilute the integrity of the department’s documentation requirements.
The state Senate considered a bill this year seeking to create a farm worker program, trying to make provisions for residency, work authorization and identification of noncitizens and “nonpermanent resident aliens.”
D’Elia testified on that bill, raising similar concerns. The final bill changed dramatically, creating the committee that’s now investigating the issue and is due to deliver a report by mid-January.
He plans to talk Wednesday about how banks could be affected by possible agency changes and also provide a recommendation.
The committee Wednesday also expects to hear from farmers, civil rights advocates and a state elections official.
The association represents 23 banks. About 14 are Vermont-based, D’Elia said.
D’Elia said Monday the association has concerns that if the DMV process for providing driver’s licenses “is in any way compromised or lessened, then we believe that would undermine the integrity of the driver’s license.” That, in turn, would change identification procedures for all Vermonters, leading to a more cumbersome process, he said.
“So that means for all Vermonters, what would be a typical process of putting your driver’s license on the table would now be driver’s license, birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, other forms of identification that would be necessary in order for us to work with you, open up accounts, and so on,” D’Elia said.
A person applying for a Vermont driver’s license must prove he or she is a resident of the state. That’s done with two pieces of mail or various other options, such as a utility bill or lease.
D’Elia suggested that lessening standards for identifying one’s residency could undermine banks’ ability to rely on a driver’s license.
As part of the USA Patriot Act, banks are responsible for customer identification procedures, D’Elia said. Discrimination law also prevents treating customers differently.
The committee has reviewed other states that have sought to make access to driving documents or identification less difficult. Utah, for example, provides a driving privilege card, which allows people to obtain licenses there without providing evidence of lawful presence in the United States.
D’Elia said he’s aware of the issue about trying to increase people’s ability to drive and is trying to help with a solution. He said because Utah’s driving privilege card is not valid for identification, the integrity of a driver’s license would not be undermined.
But he suggested other states’ solutions to the issue could be problematic for banks.
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