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Feeling deceived by Michigan Legislators, Cosecha organizers remain committed to campaign for driver’s licenses even after Public Hearing was cancelled

September 15, 2021

Yesterday, an estimated 150 people from across Michigan came to the Lansing State Capitol to demand Driver’s Licenses for All.

Cosecha Michigan, which has circles in numerous communities, showed up in Lansing to hold a rally before there was a public hearing on proposed legislation that would grant Driver’s Licenses to undocumented immigrants. There were people who came from Muskegon, Holland, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Berrien Springs, Fennville, Ionia, Niles, Benton Harbor, Detroit and Ann Arbor. The same communities had participated in a tour in August, where each community organized an action to generate interest in the larger statewide campaign.

The rally on Tuesday mobilized Cosecha circles, which came to Lansing with great energy and enthusiasm, in order to demand driver’s licenses. The gathering yesterday felt more like a pep rally, with each Cosecha circle given the opportunity to speak and shout out their own chants. 

Some local news media also showed up to capture the rally and do interviews with key organizers. There was a scheduled hearing on the proposed driver’s licenses legislation, HB 4835, which was then sent to the Committee on Rules and Competitiveness in May. The Committee on Rules and Competitiveness, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Lilly, had a public hearing scheduled for noon on September 14. However, just minutes before the noon hearing, it was cancelled.

Now, we still don’t know the reasons behind the last minute cancellation, but the coalition that makes up Drive Forward Michigan, contacted Cosecha organizers to tell them that the Michigan House Speaker, Rep. Jason Wentworth had cancelled the meeting. Beyond that information, there were no explanations provided to the public on why the hearing was cancelled.

Outraged, Cosecha organizers decided to enter the State Capitol and make some noise. Most of the 150 that had gathered outside the Capitol, went inside, chanting with bullhorns and other amplification systems. The 100 or so Cosecha activists walked up three flights of stairs, chanting and filling the rotunda at one point. Eventually, the Cosecha activists came down to the ground floor and held their own public hearing, inviting members from the numerous Cosecha circles to offer testimony on why having a driver’s licenses would radically improve their lives and the lives of their families. People expressed their anger, their indignation, their frustration and their feelings of being deceived by State Legislators for cancelling the public hearing on driver’s licenses. 

After about 45 minutes, people began to leave the Capitol building and regroup outside in front of the  State Capitol. Ironically, there was a Michigan Corn Growers Association event that taking place on the lawn in front of the Capitol, with a large tent, filled with people, food and beverages. The Michigan Corn Growers Association also had hung a large banner the hung above the steps leading up to the front of the State Capitol. Taking advantage of the banner, Cosecha organizers got everyone to stand on the steps in from the banner and use that moment to say that the people who are part of the Cosecha circles that drove to Lansing from all across the state, that they were the ones who were the real agricultural growers and workers in Michigan. (Photo above) One person said, “Our people are the ones who pick the food that ends up on the tables of families all across Michigan and beyond. We are the one who do this work and make the harvest possible in Michigan.” Not lost on those in attendance, was the fact that the word Cosecha means harvest.

While many of the organizers and participants expressed a great deal of frustration over the cancellation of the public hearing, they also shared a deep commitment to continue to fight to win driver’s licenses in Michigan. Indeed, they are already talking about using this setback as yet another organizing opportunity, because that is what good organizers do.

If you want to support this campaign you can sign an online petition they have, along with contacting one of the Cosecha circles located near you. If you aren’t sure where there are Cosecha circles, you can contact Cosecha Michigan. Lastly, you an contact the Drive Forward Michigan, which is the inside game, by going to their website.

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