APRIL 03, 2009
Immigration advocates say a Florida town’s new measure requiring a valid U.S. identification to obtain utility services is inhuman because it prevents migrant farm workers from getting water.
Located in southwest Florida, Immokalee is an agriculture town with a population of about 20,000, many illegal alien farm workers who flock the area during the harvest season. Because many residents aren’t in the country legally, city officials say identity theft and instances of unpaid utility bills are prevalent.
To counter the growing crisis, the Immokalee Water and Sewer District passed two simple new rules late last year for residents to get utility services. They must furnish a valid U.S. or state-issued photo ID along with a valid residential lease containing the same name.
Now migrant farm workers and their advocates say the measure is blocking access to a basic human right (water) for illegal immigrants, which they claim is not only inhumane but also a denial of equal protection laws. One local advocate lawyer pointed to a 1982 Supreme Court case that rejected a claim that illegal aliens were a suspect class.
The chairman of Immokalee’s water district board counters that the lease and ID requirements are necessary to protect the city’s law-abiding customers and property owners from footing the many unpaid bills left by illegal immigrants. That expense is inevitably shared with all residents, he reminded.
Still, a local newspaper editorial calls the new ID rule discriminatory and cruel because it has an adverse effect on the undocumented. It concludes that local government should concentrate on residents’ basic needs and services rather than immigration issues.
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