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Licenses, not promises: Movimiento Cosecha disrupts and confronts Michigan Legislature

September 17, 2020

Two years ago, Cosecha Michigan held a rally on the steps of the state capital in Lansing, after a 5 day pilgrimage focusing on Ddriver’s Licenses for All.

Last year, Cosecha Michigan finally got support from a few state legislators to propose legislation that would provide driver’s licenses to people who are undocumented and living in Michigan.

It has been 11 months since legislation was proposed to provide driver’s licenses to those who are undocumented, yet there has been no concrete movement to pass the legislation, like holding public hearings on the matter. This is exactly why more than 100 Cosecha members went to the State Capital in Lansing again, in order to pressure State Legislators to take action by hosting public hearings on the Driver’s Licenses for All legislation.

Those involved with Movimiento Cosecha came from all over the state yesterday, to once again demand from state politicians that they pass legislation to allow people who are undocumented the ability to obtain a driver’s license. Those who made the trip to Lansing, first held a car caravan, with vehicles plastered with signs and other messages in support of driver’s licenses, which lasted for about 90 minutes.

People then gathered in front of the State Capital, before going inside the building. Once in the building, Cosecha participants went to the 3rd floor, to make some noise and get the energy of the crowd up. Here is a short video, which reflects the passion of the crowd.

It is always instructive being in this space, a space which is essentially a white space – large paintings of former governors hang on the wall – as well as a nationalistic/jingoistic space – with Michigan and USA flags displayed throughout.

So, here comes a mostly Latinx, mostly immigrant crowd, into the rotunda of the State Capital in Lansing, making noise. There were brief comments from the various Cosecha circles that have sprung up around the state, followed by some music, an lots more chanting.

Eventually, the crowd moved to the area right by the entrance to where the State Legislators gather. Cosecha participants continued to be loud and demanding, in both Spanish and English. Some community-base organizers also spoke, specifically from organizations that were in solidarity with Cosecha’s demand for Driver’s Licenses for All. There was also a representative from the Jewish movement, known as Never Again. The person who spoke said that his parents were arrested by the Nazis. He then told the crowd that after WWII, those who survived the Holocaust made it clear that this kind of thing would never happened again. However, the very fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement picks up people on a regular basis, detains them, and even put their children in cages, has compelled the Never Again group to speak out in support of immigrant justice and Driver’s Licenses for All!

While Cosecha members were on the 3rd floor making noise and disrupting the legislature, there would be state officials and their aides coming and going from the chamber. It was interesting to see that these people would be escorted by security people through the Cosecha crowd, even though there was no reason for people to fear, as Cosecha is a non-violent movement. However, those in power often view tactics of disruption as disrespectful and threatening. Cosecha uses the tactic of disruption against people with political power because their lives are disrupted on a daily basis. Undocumented immigrants live in constant fear of being arrested, detained and deported. In fact, one of the reasons why Movimiento Cosecha chose to work on a campaign to get driver’s licenses for all, is because the number one reason that undocumented immigrants end up being detained by ICE is because they are stopped by local law enforcement when driving without a license.

After an hour of disrupting business as usual in the State Capital, people left the building and reconvened outside to celebrate the struggle and talk about next steps.

Licenses Yes, Promises No

As was mentioned earlier, it has been 11 months since legislation was introduced on Driver’s Licenses for All, yet, there has been no movement to move the bill forward. As you can see from this link, the last action took place on November 6, 2019, when the bill was sent to the Transportation Committee.

In six weeks, people throughout Michigan will participate in the 2020 election, which not only includes voting for President, but State Representatives. There were 16 Democrats who co-sponsored this legislation last year. All 16 of these State Representatives are up for re-election, so I thought it would be useful to look at their campaign websites to see if Driver’s Licenses for All was prominently displayed or mentioned. A few of those who co-sponsored the bill are term limited, but in the case of all the other State Representatives running for re-election, NOT ONE of those who co-sponsored the Driver’s Licenses for All legislation has anything about the importance of passing this legislation on their re-election pages.

The lack of urgency from politicians around this issue is not surprising, but it is frustrating. However, Movimiento Cosecha is committed to getting this legislation passed an to fighting for immigrant justice no matter what politicians do. You should contact you local state representative and ask them why they are not fighting for this issue. More importantly, you should support the work of Movimiento Cosecha, with financial support an by leveraging your privilege,  especially those who do not live in fear of arrest, detention and deportation from ICE. La Lucha Sigue! Hasta la Huelga!

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