Michigan activists demand driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Leaders with Movimiento Cosecha Michigan have planned marches slotted for May 1 in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Michigan activists gathered in Lansing on Thursday to announce statewide immigrant marches to demand driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in the state.

Leaders with Movimiento Cosecha Michigan, which fights for permanent protection for immigrants, have planned marches Wednesday in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. 

The planned day of action is in coordination with "Driving Without Fear" immigrant marches the same day in cities across the country, including New Jersey, Indiana, Georgia and Wisconsin.

Organizers urge Michigan immigrants and allies to be absent from work, keep children home from school, businesses to close, officials said at a press conference Thursday outside Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.

"For too long, undocumented immigrants in Michigan have driven with the fear that we may be arrested, detained and even permanently separated from our families and deported for simply driving without a license to work, to pick up their kids from school, or to the hospital," said Gema Lowe from Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids.

"This May 1, immigrants from all over Michigan will be taking the streets in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo to demand the right to drive without fear. Together, we will show the power and dignity of our community."

Currently, 12 states allow for residents to apply for driver licenses regardless of immigration status. Michigan allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses until 2008.

In 2007, former Republican Attorney General Mike Cox issued an opinion saying driver's licenses could not be issued to undocumented immigrants. The Legislature then passed a law banning undocumented immigrants from getting Michigan driver's licenses.

No bill has been introduced yet in the current legislative session, officials said.

Marches planned for Wednesday are in:

  • Detroit: 11 a.m. starting from Patton Park,  2301 Woodmere St., for a two-mile march to Clark Park, 1130 Clark Ave.
  • Kalamazoo: 4 p.m. at Upjohn Park, 1018 Walter St.
  • Grand Rapids: Noon at Garfield Park, 334 Burton St.

“Despite last November’s ‘Blue Wave’ and a new Democratic governor in Michigan, we are four months into the current legislative session and a new ‘Licenses for All’ bill still has not yet been introduced," said Nelly Fuentes of Movimiento Cosecha Kalamazoo. "Michigan depends on immigrants who drive to work in the fields, in restaurants, in factories. On May 1, by not going to work, not opening our businesses, not going to school and not shopping, we will show our power in the streets and demand licenses for all."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_