GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The fate of more than three dozen undocumented immigrants who were detained last week after a charter bus made a wrong turn is still up in the air as many of the people involved await their day in court.
The three people who were detained may have had a court date as early as Monday -- but that's not entirely clear. Others are scrambling for legal counsel as their future hangs in the balance.
About once a month, a bus is chartered by the West Michigan Hispanic Center to allow immigrants the transportation they need to get to the Mexican Consulate in Detroit. There they are able to get assistance with documentation they need to get or maintain legal status in the United States.
"They're individuals that are looking for some opportunity to live here without fear and just don't have any access to the American dream," said Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, CEO of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan.
The Hispanic Center aims to assist with access by providing the bus trips.
But Thursday, things took a bad turn for some of the people on the bus when the driver missed an exit and accidentally headed for the Ambassador Bridge that crosses from Detroit to Windsor, Canada. That led to an unexpected encounter with law enforcement.
Gonzalez-Cortes says law enforcement officials were respectful and courteous in allowing families to stay together as they went through the frightening ordeal that lasted 12 hours. Most of the people detained were cited and are expected to appear before a judge. Three are still in the Calhoun County Jail because of previous run-ins with the law.
Last week was the first time the Hispanic Center had used the bus company involved and it was the first time the driver had driven the group to the Consulate.
The Hispanic Center is working to assemble a team of attorneys to assist those who need it with the ensuing legal battle. The outcome for those cited is uncertain.
"It's really very difficult for me to say I'm optimistic about the outcome of this work because we have such a wide range of realities," Gonzalez-Cortes said.
Most importantly, Gonzalez-Cortes says her hope is that this ordeal sparks a conversation about handling undocumented immigrants in this country.
"For us to talk about why people live in fear. Why people that are not criminals in a community live in constant fear," she said.
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