Danilo Lopez had his moment in the sun Wednesday, describing a nearly two-year struggle that began with the car in which he was a passenger being stopped by a state trooper and culminating in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signing of a new law creating a new type of driver’s license available to people in the country illegally.
“We left fear behind and we left the shadows to come out and organize for our rights,” said Lopez, 23, who has worked on a Charlotte dairy farm for much of his nearly six years in Vermont.
But Lopez may never be a legal Vermont driver himself. His appeal of a deportation order was rejected last week; he’s been ordered to leave the country by July 5.
After the trooper who stopped his driver for speeding turned Lopez and a companion over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Lopez became a leader among the estimated 1,500 workers who provide crucial labor on Vermont dairy farms but who are in the country illegally.
Working with the advocacy group Migrant Justice, Lopez got a taste of the American dream — the part about being able to go to the halls of power, in this case the Vermont Statehouse, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.