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No arrests as hundreds march statewide for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Hundreds gathered in Grand Rapids to push for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Hundreds of people marched peacefully across the state on Wednesday, calling for the state to issue driver’s licenses to people regardless of their immigration status. People marched in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Sergio Cira was one of the organizers of the Grand Rapids march. He says undocumented immigrants are held back from contributing to the community when they can’t get a driver’s license.

“The impact that we can have in this community locally and nationally would be so much greater. I think this community, this country, this state is losing out on this big opportunity. And so that’s why we’re urging our elected officials, the state, to give us licenses for all.”

One person in the march, pushing a stroller, was a woman named Anahi. She didn’t want to give her last name because of her immigration status.

“I drive my kids to school every day,” she said. “And I don’t feel secure, you know to be driving. My livelihood depends on getting a driver’s license.”

According to the National Immigration Law Center, 13 states and Washington D.C. currently allow driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Michigan State Police, guarded the marchers on bicycles to prevent them from marching in the streets.

The immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha Michigan organized the events.

Tensions had been high over the Grand Rapids march in particular, after the city said it would arrest anyone in the event who marched in the street. Similar marches have taken place in Grand Rapids on May 1 for each of the past two years. Each of those years, thousands of people filled the street, blocking traffic.

But this year, people stayed on the sidewalk and out of trouble.

A spokesperson for the Grand Rapids Police Department said there were no arrests and no incidents. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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