May 2019

El Grito Por Las Licencias March

By Nelly Fuentes
West Michigan organizer/Cosecha Michigan

It has been more than 10 years since driver’s licences have been stolen from undocumented immigrants in Michigan. Prior to 2008, people who are denied legal presence in this country were given the opportunity to acquire a driver’s licence, allowing them access to auto insurance, to register their vehicle in their own name, and driving without fear. The majority of police-undocumented driver interactions lead to deportation in most municipalities in our state.

Groups have organized around this issue with little to no success. During this time, legislation has been introduced multiple times only to have it sit in committee without any positive outcome. The undocumented community has been a part of the efforts organized by various groups, but they never have had a movement of their own, organized and lead by affected members of the community.

That is until Cosecha Michigan was formed.

Cosecha Michigan was formed to mobilize and organize members of the affected community around a statewide driver’s licence campaign. One of our first mobilizations happened May 1. Thousands of people across the Mitten came out on May 1st, marching and demanding driver’s licences for all. The marches gained statewide attention, opening conversations around this issue. We The People Michigan team is proud to support Cosecha Michigan and all the folks who have been denied legal status in their efforts to obtain a driver’s licence.

Matilde Ramirez, Cosecha Kalamazoo

Matilde Ramirez, Cosecha Kalamazoo

What happened May 1?

Have a chance to read it first hand from their organizers!

Kalamazoo

Despite the weather, fear, and intimidation, people vwho have been denied documentation showed up strong to the May 1 march in Kalamazoo. They came with loud voices and hopeful hearts to scream as we marched, “Qué es lo que queremos? Licencias! Cuando las queremos? Ahora! Y cómo ganaremos? Luchando, creando, poder popular!” (What do we want? Licences! When do we want them? Now! And how are we going to get them? Fighting, creating, popular power!)

The almost 2-mile march did not seem long while chanting and walking deep in our neighborhoods so folks who were comfortably watching us through their windows heard us loud and clear. “We will not go away! This is our neighborhood, too!”  

Marching at the pace of wheelchairs and strollers, younger and older, we were able to send a powerful messages: Our community is organizing.


Grand Rapids
By Ana Isabel, Cosecha Michigan, Grand Rapids

The May 1 here in Grand Rapids was an important symbol for me. It inspired hope and showed more community resilience than ever. We marched in spite of the weather and in spite of the intimidation of the police and the city administration. They continue to tell themselves the lie that they are there to protect and serve the community, yet they try to silence our voices as we shout for driver's licenses and an end to family separation by ICE.

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The difference in numbers this year compared to other years was noticeable, but the message from the community was more remarkable than ever before. The truth is that our plan to interrupt traffic was fulfilled.  We took exactly the route we had planned, and we enjoyed our planned celebration at the end of the march. In every way this was a successful march and a victory for our movement.

Not only was this march a success in the city of GR but also in all of Michigan, as the march spread to other cities throughout the state. This expansion of the march shows how our movement is growing and our message is spreading. Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo got out to march, and I don’t doubt that next year even more cities will join the fight for driver's licenses.

The truth is that all the hours dedicated to the movement – long days planning together with established members of the community, and receiving new members that now believe in the vision of the movement –  have a great reward. All those hours going out to spread the message, distributing flyers, and doing trainings, as well as the sleepless nights and the parties (because we also have to celebrate the work done) - all of it has its good reward and that reward is to see the people united.

No matter how few or how many we are, our fighting spirit will endure until we win!

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Detroit
By Sandy Gaytan, Cosecha, Detroit/Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation

May 1st  2019: Another Day Without Immigrants: “El GRITO por las licencias”

Over 500 community residents came out and supported immigrant families and other workers from around Michigan at a May Day march and rally calling for drivers’ licenses for all, regardless of immigration status. Un Día Sin Inmigrantes or A Day Without Immigrants, began at Patton Park and culminated with a rally/celebration at Clark Park, where Reto Norteño Banda welcomed the community with music.

A lineup of speakers delivered speeches and testimonies to support legislation that recognizes the need for #LicensesForAll and the intersection of workers’ rights. Event organizers Movimiento Cosecha, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC), Moratorium NOW & the Detroit International Workers of The World (IWW) all stressed the need for safety, dignity and the right of all families to stay together.

Local businesses closed their doors in support of the march/rally and allowed their workers to join in, and some businesses and organizations provided resources, time and donations to support our movement.

Movimiento Cosecha is a national non-violent movement to win permanent protection, dignity and respect for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Cosecha Michigan is one of many organizations across the state demanding that undocumented immigrants be given access to driver's licenses.


ELLAS!
(Empowering Latina Leaders and Advocates for Success)

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By Eva Alvarez

In 2016, a group of Latinas in Kalamazoo County identified the need for creating a network of Latina leaders who could help advocate for cultural inclusiveness in our region, develop more opportunities for, and raise awareness around the Latinx community. We formalized our group in 2018 with a mission to empower, enrich, and elevate Latina leaders and allies to become bridge builders and influential change agents in Southwest Michigan.

ELLAS is unique because it couples professional development workshops with community strengthening exercises through a Latina perspective. We lean into our strengths and hone them to elevate our leadership and advocacy within our broader community.

We launched our program on May 2, and we are very excited for the six-month leadership development series focused on becoming bridge builders and influential change agents in Southwest Michigan.

For more information email: ellasleadership@gmail.com


Activists ask Kalamazoo to support Palestinian children living under military occupation

By Daniel Smith, KNOW (Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War)

An issue which requires our solidarity, and which is not addressed by the mainstream media, is the oppression of the Palestinian people.  If any attention at all is given to the Israel/Palestine issue, it is generally one-sided toward Israel. Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW) is of the belief that until we stop arming Israel to the teeth, or until the Israeli government senses that US aid may be jeopardized by their actions, they will have little incentive to seriously work for peace.  We also believe that the military budget in general, and military aid to Israel in particular, could be better spent on addressing human needs here at home.

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On Monday, May 6, after months of preparation, a resolution was brought before the Kalamazoo City Commission by the Working Group on Israel/Palestine, which is part of Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War.  The title was “Support Human Rights for Israelis and Palestinians by Ending US Military Aid to Israel”.  The resolution’s supporters urged passage of the resolution which resolved that:

  • The City of Kalamazoo condemns Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons to commit grave human rights abuses of Palestinians living under its 51-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

  • The City of Kalamazoo calls upon Members of Congress to end U.S. military aid to Israel and redirect that money to unmet community needs until Israel abides by international law, stops engaging in human rights abuses against Palestinians and ends the military occupation of Palestine.

  • The City of Kalamazoo calls upon member of Congress to support the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and security, condemning violence by either side.

  • The City of Kalamazoo shall transmit copies of this resolution to the City’s Representative in Congress, Michigan’s two U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Secretary of State.

There were many testimonies in favor of the resolution, which focused on the dire human rights situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  Several people who spoke had been to Palestine and we able to give eyewitness accounts of the oppression. Speakers referenced the lack of drinkable water due to the Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza. They told the unfortunate truth that the Gaza Strip will be soon uninhabitable because the Israeli military blockade keeps out replacement parts which are needed to repair wastewater treatment plants and the electrical grid, damaged during the last Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2014.

Among many other references to human rights violations of Palestinians was the practice of child detention by the Israeli military, without legal representation or parents present.  Here is an excerpt from that testimony:

Recently Rep. Betty McCollum (MN) has introduced a bill to ban Israel from using the billions of US taxpayers’ dollars it gets each year to fund “what is clearly a human rights violation against children.”  McCollum’s bill, HR 2407, is called Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. It would amend the Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit US funding for the military detention of children in any country, including the estimated 700 Palestinian children detained, interrogated, beaten, and tortured every year in Israel’s military courts, which have a conviction rate of 99.74 %.  

The bill prohibiting US funds from being used for the “military detention, interrogation, abuse and ill-treatment of children” has 30 co-sponsors.  I intend to ask my representative in Congress to become a co-sponsor of HR 2407, as well.

By approving this resolution, Kalamazoo will become a part of a growing political movement and will increase media coverage of the Israeli government’s crimes against minors.  Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voices for Peace names the Israeli government, military police and intelligence services as the “perpetrators of this system of child abuse,” insisting that “Palestinian children—like all children—should be protected and treasured.”  I cannot improve on Rabbi Wise’s words.

In the open hearing there were also many organized against the resolution.  Unfortunately, there were many Jewish brothers and sisters who felt threatened by the criticism of Israel, and of US military aid to Israel being ended until human rights abuses are stopped.  The implication was that the resolution was anti-Semitic. We responded that it is important that we not conflate criticism of Israel government policy with anti-Semitism. We must all come together and fight racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.  The focus of this resolution is human rights and security for all, which would come about through a just and equitable settlement.

Finally, after dozens of speakers the resolution failed to garner enough Commissioner votes, and did not pass.

Commissioners Don Cooney and Shannon Sykes gave excellent analyses of the issue and supported the resolution.  We thank them for their insight and courage. Although we weren't successful, we cracked the door open a bit, to shine some light in our community on the plight of the Palestinians and how peace will finally come when justice for all is achieved. We know we are on the right side of history.

We hope that other areas of Michigan will mobilize support for the aforementioned bill HR 2407, Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, and that we can get all of our Representatives to become co-sponsors.


Megan Collier Hess