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We don’t want promises, We want Licenses: Movimiento Cosecha rally inspires!

October 10, 2018

Yesterday, Movimiento Cosecha’s 5 day pilgrimage ended in Lansing at the state capitol. The pilgrimage was designed to draw attention and kick-off a statewide campaign to get drivers licenses for all.

In addition to those who were walking, people from all over the state – Ann Arbor, Detroit, Sturgis, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, made the trek to Lansing to kick-off their campaign and to demand divers licenses for all. Their strategy is to build a statewide mass movement of immigrants and allies that will apply public pressure to force lawmakers to make it possible for everyone to obtain drivers licenses.

This strategy, which is part of their theory of change, is a result of past experiences around immigration policies reform promises that never came to pass. Movimiento Cosecha was formed in 2015, through the lived experiences of immigrants who fought for DACA and DAPA and who were betrayed by previous promises not kept by politicians. Learning from previous social movements, their strategy is to build power from below to obtain respect, dignity and permanent protection for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Just before 1pm yesterday, Cosecha groups from across the state began arriving in Lansing, some by bus and others by car. The group pictured above was from Detroit and they got people energized before those participating in the pilgrimage arrived. They immediately began opening up banners and standing on the steps of the capitol building.

At about 1:45pm, those walking in the pilgrimage for drivers licenses could be seen walking towards the capitol, which elicited a huge round of applause from everyone gathered. People began chanting as the walkers approached, both in Spanish and English, saying, “Si, Se Puede” and “Promesas No, Licencias Si.” One person who had been providing support from those walking the entire five days, turned to me with tears of joy as the walkers moved past us and gathered in front of the capitol building.

Once everyone arrived, there were numerous short speeches made by people, first by several of the pilgrimage participants. One woman made the point that walking in the cold, wet rain some days, reminded her of coming to the US on foot, when she left her home in Mexico and made the difficult trek north in search of greater opportunities for her family.

Many of those who participated in the pilgrimage spoke about how why it was important for them to walk, both for themselves and for their community, which has lived in the shadows too long. Another pilgrimage participant made it clear that she was walking because, “to drive without a license and then be stopped by the police could change one’s life forever.” What she was referring to was the fact that if immigrants are stopped by law enforcement and don’t have licenses, not only would they be fined and arrested, but they would then have a hold put on them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and normally go to a detention facility and possibly deported. This point underscored the urgency of the need for immigrants in Michigan to be able to obtain a drivers license, regardless of their immigration status.

There were also several clergy members who spoke during the rally. Rev. Justo Gonzalez made it clear, that even though the system often referred to immigrants as criminals, it was the representatives, senators and the Governor of Michigan who were the real criminals for deny immigrants the opportunity to obtain a drivers license. An lawyer from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, based in Grand Rapids, also addressed the rally crowd by talking about how irrational it is for states to deny immigrants the opportunity to obtain a drivers license and how everyone would benefit, for safety reasons and because insurance costs would go down.

However, the most important comments came directly from the immigrant community, who shared their stories and talked about the Drivers Licenses for All campaign.

What felt different about this rally than most rallies I have attended at the state capitol, was the fact that this campaign is being built by a mass movement that does not put their hopes in politicians to act. People were not pleading with those at the rally to go out and vote as the primary action to take. Indeed, most of those gathered cannot vote as they are not full citizens in the US. More importantly, their strategy is to build a mass movement that will force systems of power to give them what they want, much like the civil rights movement and so many movements have done before them.

Organizers with Movimiento Cosecha kept reminding people to sign up for their action alerts, to organize in their individual communities and to donate when they can to support the work of Cosecha. Cosecha organizers reminded people that there would be a Live Facebook event on Monday, October 15, to explain to anyone in Michigan, how they can be involved in the fight to win drivers licenses for all.

At about 3:30pm the rally came to a close, with people offering hugs to everyone, more words of encouragement and one last opportunity for a group photo. The crowd left energized and inspired to be part of this historic work and historic movement.

 

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