The Naples Daily News is reporting that families in Immokalee have lost their sewer and water service because they could not show government-issued identification cards. A policy that Immokalee Water and Sewer District governors approved in October went into effect last week, costing some six families basic bathing and toilet access.
Jim Kean, a caseworker for Catholic Charities of Collier County’s Guadalupe Social Services sent an urgent e-mail to Collier Commissioner Jim Coletta on Thursday morning seeking help and calling the policy is “unjust, illogical, tilting toward racism and ethnic profiling, and a further marginalization of our farmworker families.”
A special district created by Florida legislators, the agency is independent of Collier County Commission. The governor appoints IWS board of directors. IWS Executive Director Eva Deyo acknowledged by e-mail on Thursday that the policy to terminate services to those who cannot produce a government issued ID was approved unanimously. Fred Thomas motioned to have IWS staff come up with a definition of what type of ID to require for services, authorized them to put locks on meters when needed without preceding the process by a final notice.
“Just send the cut-off list to the landowners,” states the Thomas motion, according to the printed minutes. Fellow directors Raymond Holland, Anne Goodnight, Everett Loukonen and Richard Rice unanimously seconded and approved Thomas’ motion.
When read the minutes by the Daily News, Coletta said, “Wow!” Thomas has often come before the commission to ask for charity toward the largely immigrant community, Coletta said. “And he’s chastising commissioners for not doing enough for poor people?” Coletta asked.
Coletta called Deyo on Thursday who told him the resolution was in reaction to federal identification laws.
“I suggested they call an emergency meeting,” Coletta said of IWS, but hadn’t received confirmation of that.
While he agrees the families should be given adequate notice, Coletta was not entirely critical of the new program.
While he agrees with Kean that it is unthinkable to deprive families of basic human rights such as water and sanitation, Coletta also said while that there’s a good deal of identity theft around the nation, and that is the likely reason for not accepting photo identification from potential IWS users if they are from other countries.
“They’re not trying to exclude a certain socio-economic group,” Coletta said.
However, he did question why under any program — Homeland Security or anti-identity theft — foreign photo identification is accepted throughout Collier if issued by, say, a European country, or Canada.