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We need more from elected officials than just proposed legislation, we need their active participation in the immigrant justice movement

March 22, 2022

Since the Spring of 2018, Movimiento Cosecha, the immigrant-led movement for immigrant justice, has been demanding that the Michigan Legislature make it legal for undocumented immigrants to be be apply to apply for a driver’s license. 

During the past 4 years, Movimiento Cosecha has marched, held vigils, engaged in direct action, protested outside of Secretary of State offices, organized a 75 mile pilgrimage, protested outside the homes of various state legislators and demanded that local city councils endorse their campaign to win driver’s licenses for all. 

In October of 2019, several state legislators introduced legislation that would allow for undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license in Michigan. However, since then there has been little movement on the legislation, despite the ongoing pressure coming from the immigrant justice movement. There was finally a public hearing scheduled for the issue of driver’s licenses in September of 2021, but the Michigan House Speaker intervened at the last second and canceled the scheduled hearing.

Just last month, Movimiento Cosecha Michigan once again went to the State Capital to protest the fact that there has yet to be a public hearing on driver’s licenses, even though it has been 2 and a half years since the legislation has been introduced. 

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Rep. Padma Kuppa, who was one of the state legislators that introduced the legislation. Here is what she said:

Thank you so much for taking the time to contact my office to voice your support for the Drive SAFE legislation: House Bills 4835 and 4836, and Senate Bills 433 and 434! I was proud to introduce HB 4835 this term to help support Michiganders and our economy.

As you know, these bills would restore the right of Michigan residents to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card regardless of their ability to produce documents affirming their legal residency. Because of advocacy like yours, there has been a renewed interest in the Drive SAFE legislation, and I was recently approached by several media outlets to discuss these bills and had an opportunity to underscore the positive impact they would have on our state, especially for those who are unable to drive safely and legally due to no fault of their own. These interviews are incredibly valuable in expanding the reach of our message.

Since 2008, our current laws have prevented immigrants and others from obtaining a driver’s license or state ID, including seniors and those in foster care who have lost documents over the years, those born on military bases, etc. As we all know how important it is to have mobile autonomy in today’s society, enacting the Drive SAFE legislation will be key to removing significant everyday barriers for Michigan residents, which would allow them to better support themselves and our economy, and in turn this would help alleviate numerous statewide setbacks such as the current worker shortage.

I also recently introduced a resolution, HR 248, to urge the federal government to quickly address the backlog in employment-based green cards, including, but not limited to, enacting H.R. 3648 of 2021, also known as the EAGLE Act. The resolution has gained bipartisan support, but we are still facing an uphill battle for its passage. Would you be interested in meeting with me and other advocates for an update on these policies and to answer any questions that you may have?

Please let me know and, once again, thank you for your advocacy. I am honored to be a voice for Michigan residents such as yourself. If you wish to monitor any Michigan legislation, you may do so at www.legislature.mi.gov. Please refer to my website (kuppa.housedems.com) or social media platforms (@MIRepPadmaKuppa on Facebook and @PadmaKuppaMI41 on Twitter) regarding our upcoming events. I also encourage you to sign up for email updates at housedems.com/padma-kuppa/enews-signup/. If you have any other concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. We are here to serve and provide the most up-to-date information possible, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At one level, the e-mail was an acknowledgment of the work that has been done at the grassroots level. However, I don’t need a rundown of all of the proposed legislation the Rep. Kuppa has introduced on this matter. What immigrants need is for elected officials to do a whole lot more to get this legislation passed, such as:

  • Hold a Press Conference to demand a Public Hearing on Driver’s Licenses for All.
  • Engage in a disruptive action at the State Legislature, which could include civil disobedience to force the issue.
  • Elected officials need to actively and publicly support the demands of the immigrant justice movement, which means showing up to their events (to support), invite their constituents to show up, participate in the marches, the protests and other types of direct action.

The undocumented immigrant community lives in constant fear of arrest, detention and deportation. Those who claim to represent them, the elected officials, need to embrace the fact that winning driver’s licenses is a very urgent matter for immigrants, even a life and death matter. Introducing legislation is not enough. We need elected officials to join the movement for immigrant justice, be part of the struggle, and to take direction from the very people who are threatened daily by local, state and federal law enforcement officials. Solidarity is more than just legislation, it means developing deep relationships from those most affected and it means actively listening to their collective stories.

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