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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Hundreds march in Grand Rapids and Wyoming for driver's licenses for all immigrants

Michelle Jokisch Polo

On Wednesday, hundreds of people took to the streets to march advocating for driver’s licenses for all immigrants. The march was a part of a demonstration for the “day without immigrants” organized by an immigrant rights group known as Movimiento Cosecha GR. Around the country dozens of cities held similar peaceful demonstrations. 

Before the march began in Garfield Park, officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department told the crowd that they would be making arrests or issuing citations if the group marched on the street. 

A woman named Jessica, who chose not to give her last name for fear of retaliation, was carrying a sign that read “ICE stop separating families” above a photo of her, and her husband Chris. She said her husband was deported in October of  2017. 

“This is really the last picture of all of us before we had to leave. I am here supporting my family and what happened to him really was not right.” 

The group of people walked from Garfield Park south of Division Avenue toward Clyde Park ending at Prairie Park for a picnic. 

Lorena Aguayo-Marquez, one of the organizers of the march, said they are advocating for a change in state legislation that would grant driver’s licenses to all immigrants.

“Driver’s licenses for all would ensure safety on the road for everyone. We need our elected officials to change legislation so that everyone can have a driver’s license.” 

Eleven years ago, the state of Michigan passed a legislation preventing residents in the state without legal status from being able to receive a driver’s licenses or a personal identification car. Terri Lynn Land, who then served as secretary of state, introduced a law that would require every applicant of a driver’s license or a personal identification provide evidence of legal status. The law passed in January of 2008. 

Currently there are 12 states and the District of Columbia that have laws allowing undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license or a personal identification card according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the Midwest, Illinois is the only state that permits the Secretary of State to issues temporary visitors driver’s licenses.

Over 50 police officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department, the Wyoming Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department monitored the group with bikes, vehicles and horses for four hours while the crowd marched. According to officials from the Grand Rapids Police Department no arrests were made during the march. 

This is the third year in a row that Movimiento Cosecha has organized a demonstration advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants. 

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