Activists seek county support for undocumented immigrants to have licenses.

August 27, 2020

Image courtesy of the Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids Facebook page.

Activists seek county support for undocumented immigrants to have licenses.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Local activists involved in the Movimiento Cosecha organization asked the Oceana County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Thursday, Aug. 27, to pass a resolution in support of “driver’s licenses for all.”

The commissioners plan to address the issue at their next meeting, Sept. 10.

“We are immigrant families trying to do our best to support other immigrant families,” said Erica Ponce through Spanish interpreter Catalina Adorono. Ponce said the organization is seeking a resolution from the board voicing its support of allowing undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses.

She stressed the importance of immigrant families needing transportation to work, school and medical appointments.

“We know you can’t issue licenses, but your support is very important.”

Commissioner Robert Walker, who is a former police officer, said he reached out to local law enforcement officials about the matter. “It would make it difficult for them to do their job,” Walker said. “I recommend that we take no action and not vote today.”

There are “advantages and disadvantages,” said Commissioner Larry Byl. “This is not a body that hands out licenses.”

Activist Dolores Olivarez, who is a local resident, said Movimiento Cosecha translates to “harvest movement.” She said similar resolutions have been passed by Michigan school districts, cities and counties.

Olivarez said it’s critical for Oceana to pass a resolution due to its large Hispanic population. She said the group has appeared before the commissioners several times, and she was hoping the board would take action this time.

“Today was a very disappointing day,” she said. “We thought they were going to give us an answer.”

Commissioner Andrew Sebolt said the board has not received anything in writing in regard to a resolution, so the commissioners could not deliberate. It would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act to take action, he warned.

Support from the board would show “appreciation for all these people working here,” Olivarez said. “They’re scared of being caught (for driving without a license) and being separated from their families.”

Not only would issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants be good for the families involved, but it would also boost the local economy, she said. Immigrants would be able to purchase cars, buy car insurance and pay Secretary of State of fees. “Without a driver’s license, you can’t do a transaction or open a savings account.”

“Movimiento Cosecha is a national, non-violent movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity, and respect for all undocumented immigrants,” states the organization’s web site.

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