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Local officials work to gain I.D. acceptance for immigrants

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


Lucas County Commissioners and other public officials are working behind the scenes to gain official acceptance of a Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) picture I.D. as a way for undocumented immigrants and others to obtain utilities, a place to live, public and social services.


Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken explained that the identification card would work in a similar way to a matricular consular I.D., which he helped to obtain support for several years ago as a Toledo City Council member.

Baldemar Velásquez

“This would give standing to people in this community who may be undocumented in some forms, but have a need for local documentation for locally-controlled services,” said Commissioner Gerken. “We can work with them on I.D.'s that local utilities will take so they can have some basic human rights and human services like water, gas, and electric.”


The county commissioner and a couple of his administrative staff attended a meeting of FLOC associate members Fri. evening, Nov. 7, 2014 to help explain how the card will work.


The card is actually a card issued once Latinos purchase a $30 associate membership with FLOC. More than 100 people have signed up for such memberships, which will allow the migrant farmworker’s union to represent its members in any disputes, refer them to available community services, and assist with obtaining those services.


While the I.D. card can better help Latino immigrants to assimilate in Toledo as a community, Gerken explained a picture identification is simply necessary to obtain life’s basic needs for Spanish-speaking families and others. He also stated Toledo needs to do a better job if it wants to be recognized as a welcoming community for immigrants.

“We want to be able to document in local ways so that the folks who are here, who live here, that are brothers and sisters, to get them the basic human rights,” said Gerken. “Let's start with electricity, heat, and water.”


Gerken explained that Lucas County Job and Family Services and child support would soon accept the picture I.D. as a way for immigrant families to get more information and sign up for public assistance programs, such as food stamps, WIC, and other financial assistance programs.

Mike Craig and Pete Gerken

“You can't be successful anywhere if you’re cold, hungry, alone, and tired,” said Gerken. “You can't assimilate anywhere. We have to make sure people who have the need of these resources, which every human being does, has the easiest path to get them in a community that is welcoming.”


Baldemar Velásquez, FLOC founder and president, explained at a previous membership meeting that the FLOC ID will be different from a matricular consular card that many undocumented Mexican immigrants now carry. Velásquez stated that the latter card is officially recognized by some unnamed agencies, but not others.


“I think the FLOC membership I.D. makes a stance that we're people, we have pictures, we have names. We live here and here's who we are. It will validate that,” said Gerken.


Many cities welcome immigrants to aid in city’s economic growth


The FLOC I.D. card idea has dovetailed with recent efforts by community and political leaders to organize an effort to project the Toledo area as a community that welcomes immigrants. Many Midwestern cities are trying to take such a public stance as a means of economic development and population growth for their struggling communities. The hope is that immigrants will come, open small businesses, and stay long-term.

“We want people who are here to contribute to our community and the undocumented community does, the Latino community does. We need to shine more light so they're not in the shadows,” Gerken said. “You shine more light by giving them basic human needs.”


Both efforts have also gained steam locally as the federal government continues to embrace gridlock over immigration reform. Until a broad-based solution is found between US Congress and the president, local officials will continue to struggle with what to do about regional problems brought on by undocumented immigrants and mixed documentation families.


Ramón Pérez

 “At the local level, I’m just tired of people arguing up over our heads. It’s kind of spurred a movement-- I don't need anyone else to take care of us, we'll take care of what we can, here in town, and worry about the rest later,” said Gerken.


Community organizer Ramón Pérez, who is assisting the effort, told the group the FLOC associate memberships also will serve to form a grass-roots group “to raise our voice in the city of Toledo.” Velásquez has stated the intent is to take a proactive, grass-roots approach to the controversial issue of immigration.


Another goal by organizing local Latinos and undocumented immigrants is to empower the entire group to spur action on relevant issues such as deportations that break up Latino families and promote voter registration drives. As the Latino population continues to grow faster than any other group, local leaders want to harness that status to give the community more political power.




Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/18/14 19:05:00 -0800.




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