Group touring Michigan pushes for undocumented immigrant driving rights

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan chapter of Movimiento Cosecha is calling on state legislators to advance talks regarding driver’s licenses for undocumented people.

Movimiento Cosecha, a national movement fighting for the rights of undocumented people, is organizing marches throughout West Michigan.

“Fighting to reinstate the right to drive without fear,” said Gema Lowe, an organizer with Cosecha Michigan.

Immigrants and allies of Cosecha Michigan marched along Division Avenue and 28th Street in Grand Rapids displaying various signs, like signaling for undocumented people to be eligible for a driver’s license.

Prior to 2008, anyone in Michigan, regardless of legal status, was eligible for a driver’s license.

Currently, you need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status to obtain a driver’s license or state ID in Michigan.

Lowe says current rules put immigrants at a disadvantage when they get behind the wheel.

“You drive with no license, you just get a ticket and pay your fine,” Lowe said. “Not with immigrants. With immigrants, there’s a fear of family separation and deportation.”

Cosecha Michigan is in the midst of a 10-day “Licenses for All” tour in which organizers are spreading their message and collecting signatures to present to legislators.

Grand Rapids state Rep. Rachel Hood is one of the two sponsors of the Drive Safe package, a pair of bills introduced in May. The bills would open the door for people who can’t verify legal presence in Michigan to obtain a license.

“Specifically, this tour is to let public know we have a bill and the next step is a hearing and to push forward for that hearing,” Lowe said.

Cosecha Michigan organizers take inspiration from their colleagues at the New Jersey chapter.

In December 2019, a bill was enacted in the Garden State, allowing people without lawful presence to obtain a driver’s license.

“Pass the bill, that’s what happened in New Jersey,” Lowe said. “We say if we can do it in New Jersey, it can happen in Michigan.”

Currently 16 states and Washington D.C. have laws allowing unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Cosecha Michigan will organize a march on Thursday in Benton Harbor. The tour will end on Monday in Holland.

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