Grand Rapids march advocates for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants
Supporters of drivers licenses for all in Michigan held a march in Grand Rapids on Monday.
Supporters of drivers licenses for all in Michigan held a march in Grand Rapids on Monday. The event commemorated 15 years since the state restricted undocumented immigrants from obtaining licenses.
The march, which was hosted by Movimiento Cosecha GR, commemorated the 15 years by holding a Quinceañera, which is an event typically held in Hispanic and Latino communities as a right of passage for girls on their 15th birthday.
At least one marcher wore a dress to highlight 15 years without the ability for undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license.
Maria Barrios, who traveled to Grand Rapids from Muskegon for the march, says for her this Quinceañera represents 15 years of living in fear.
“15 years of insecurity, 15 years my mom is going to work, but I don’t know if she’s going to come back,” Barrios said.
Barrios says a lot of children of undocumented immigrants are American citizens and are suffering because of the current state law. The inability for undocumented individuals to obtain a drivers license has left many unable to drop their children off at school, go to work, purchase certain medications, and conduct other errands without fear.
“[Children are] living everyday with fear, why? Because of a simple document, a driver's license. I think we deserve to have a driver's license, I think that we all deserve to drive safe… not just our safety, but the rest of the community’s safety,” she said.
The event was held on International Workers Day, also known as May Day which occurs on May 1. Though not officially recognized in the U.S., the holiday is widely celebrated as a day to advocate for workers’ rights.
Barrios says holding the march on May Day is significant because undocumented workers are important for Michigan's economy
"We were essential workers during the pandemic... but they can't give us a driver's license to be able to do everyday normal things?" She said.
While Movimento Consechas GR and some of their partners don't align with either Democrats or Republicans, Barrios says she’s hopeful lawmakers in Lansing will pass legislation that was introduced last month.
On April 12, state Democrats introduced a bill that would overturn a 2008 state law that limited driver's licenses to residents who could prove their legal presence in the U.S. With state Democrats holding majorities in the House and Senate, the bill is favored to pass.