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Elected officials need to participate in the social movements that are being led by BIPOC communities in Grand Rapids

May 7, 2023

Last week, we wrote about the annual May Day march that was organized by Movimiento Cosecha, the immigrant-led movement that works on a variety of issues specific to those who are undocumented, but are currently fighting to win Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan.

Most of the 200 people that marched last Monday were undocumented immigrants, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the state. This is why it was particularly frustrating to observe last Monday that not one State Legislator from the Democratic Party was present to walk in solidarity with a community of people who live in constant fear of arrest, detention and deportation.

The Kent County Democratic Party likely knew that the annual May Day march organized by Movimiento Cosecha was being held, since newly elected Kent County Commissioner Ivan Diaz shared the information about the Cosecha march. Even if not every Democratic State Legislator didn’t know about the Cosecha May Day march, they should, since Movimiento Cosecha is the movement that put Driver’s Licenses for All on the map in Michigan. 

Yes, there is a politically inside group, Drive Michigan Forward, who has been working with State Legislators to pass a driver’s license bill, but this group did not start organizing until years after Movimiento Cosecha began demanding driver’s licenses for the undocumented community. Plus many of those involved in this coalition, came out of Movimiento Cosecha.

In addition, as State Legislators who have introduced or supported passing a Driver’s Licenses for All bill in Michigan, they should be attending actions like the annual May Day march. If State Legislators showed up to these events, it would send a message to the undocumented immigrant community that they want to support them, that they want to hear their stories and their concerns. 

Then there was the fact that in late March, Movimiento Cosecha visited State Senator Winnie Brinks at her office in Lansing. Senator Brinks was not there, but Cosecha members spoke with her staff, providing information in English and Spanish and inviting her to participate in the May Day march.

Now, some might say that since Senator Brinks, who has introduced a bill in support of Driver’s Licenses, doesn’t need to attend Movimiento Cosecha events. People are aware of the fact that Senator Brinks has introduced legislation, but the undocumented community, who can’t obtain Driver’s Licenses, also cannot vote. Therefore, it seems to me that regardless of whether or not people can vote, if they are some of the most vulnerable people in the state, then elected officials should make it a priority to develop relationships with them.

In looking at Senator Brinks’ Facebook page, it is clear that she attended several other events last week and even a local coffee shop that was just a few blocks from where the May Day march had been walking in the rain last Monday. People in positions of power and privilege need to interact with, develop relationships with, and be in solidarity with undocumented immigrants. Proposing legislation and even passing legislation are not enough, since they can learn a great deal from those who facing family separation on a daily basis.

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