Buses, vans and cars carrying Michiganders from every corner of the state descended on Lansing on Wednesday for “The People’s Agenda” Capitol Day organized by Michigan United and Michigan Voices. The day-long event included a rally to demand the restoration of driver’s licenses for everyone, a panel on voting rights and meetings with legislators.
Dozens of organizations took part, including: Oakland Forward, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC), Rising Voices, The Wisdom Institute, LGBT Detroit, Working Families Party, Detroit Jews for Justice, Embrace the Rock, Detroit Change Initiative, NextGen America, Emergent Justice, ACCESS, MOSES Action, NARAL, African Bureau of Immigration & Social Affairs (ABISA), Michigan Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Emgage, the Fountain Street Church Choice Fund, S&D PJ Housing, Declaration for American Democracy, Mothering Justice, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, WeROC, the Detroit Change Initiative, Care In Action and the Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association.
The day began on the Capitol’s west steps with a rally and press conference in support of legislation that would restore access to driver’s licenses for everyone in Michigan, regardless of immigration status. The speakers included State Rep. Donavan McKinney and directly-impacted members of Michigan United, DHDC and ABISA.
“This legislation is common sense. We had it before 2008, before former Attorney General Mike Cox issued a very ill-informed decision to limit who has access to driver’s licenses, which has led to families being separated, limited social mobility, and has caused so much unnecessary trauma.” Oscar Castañeda from DHDC said. “Lawmakers have a responsibility to pass these popular bills.”
Since 2008, thousands of Michigan residents have had to live in fear of driving their kids to school, driving to work or even taking a trip to the grocery store. The recently reintroduced Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and Economy) legislation would allow them to live their daily lives in peace, pursue new careers and educational goals, and be a part of their community with the dignity of knowing that a simple traffic stop won’t uproot their entire lives.
“Approximately 70,000 Black immigrants from across the world call Michigan their home. We shouldn’t determine who gets to receive a driver’s license based on where they were born. No, these folks live here, work here, build families here. Our communities have been unjustly excluded from receiving driver’s licenses for 15 years now. Politicians need to end this hardship by passing the Drive SAFE bills,” Adja Soukeye Ndoye from ABISA said.
After the rally, participants began meeting with legislators. All together, folks met with nearly 40 lawmakers in a single day to discuss the importance of passing legislation to further reproductive justice, restore “Good Time” sentence reduction policies, hold corporate utilities accountable, guarantee severance pay and expand voting rights.
Before the conclusion of the event, Michigan Voices and Michigan United hosted an important multi-perspective panel on the need for a smooth and equitable implementation of Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment expanding voting rights that was approved by voters in November. Panelists included Michigan Deputy Secretary of State Aghogho Edevbie, State Sen. Jeremy Moss, Ingham County Clerk Barbara Byrum, Canton Township Clerk Michael Siegrist and Promote The Vote Senior Advisor Erica Peresman.
Getting adequate resources is a key factor in ensuring that our elections administrators are supported and situated to successfully carry out the expanded voting rights in their counties, cities and townships. It will also allow for proper education campaigns to inform the public about these new rights.
“Michiganders made their voice clear: we won’t tolerate another attack on our democracy. Our right to vote is fundamental to our society. As the implementation of Proposal 2 begins, we need to ensure it is done so in a way that heals the historic injustices related to who has access to the ballot box and how,” Isra Daraiseh, Democracy Manager at Michigan Voices, said. “Let’s not forget, Proposal 2 was only achievable because of the hard work of community organizations and tireless work of community leaders, including the immigrant community, which turned out friends and neighbors to exercise their right to vote.”
Every year, Michigan United and partner organizations like Michigan Voices host Capitol Day events to speak with legislators about much-needed policies. Major victories that have been won thanks to previous Capitol Day events include driver’s licenses for DACA recipients, the creation of the Michigan Office of Immigrant Integration (now called the Office of Global Michigan), and raising the age at which courts rule youth as adults from 16 up to 18. This coalition of organizations is determined to continue this tradition of civic engagement to ensure our politicians are held accountable and pass the legislation our communities demand.