GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The main thing people in the undocumented and immigrant communities want is permanent protection, said activist Gema Lowe.
“Permanent protection means we can go to work without fear of ICE,” Lowe said during a Zoom interview with FOX 17 earlier this month. “That we can go back to our countries and visit our loved ones and come back, with documentation.”
Since President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January, activists have been keeping a close eye on his work in this area and they’ve grown disappointed, Lowe said. So, she, Movimiento Cosecha and 2,000 other people protested near the Capitol in Washington D.C. on May 1, which marked the end of Biden’s first 100 days in office.
“It felt like the immigrant, the undocumented immigrants, usually we are in the shadows. [However] we came to light. We came to raise our voices. We came to say we don’t believe in the promises anymore,” said Lowe, who’s one of the main organizers with Movimiento Cosecha, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for undocumented immigrants' rights. “The title of our efforts is Papers Not Crumbs because the empty promises is what it feels like for us: crumbs.”
Lowe said activists and protesters traveled from all over the country to attend the event on May 1, which was also International Workers' Day. Thirty packed buses left from several states, including four from Michigan—two from Grand Rapids and two from Detroit.
Lowe said Biden’s work is considered “crumbs” because so far only dreamers, or DACA recipients, have a path to citizenship. She believes "helping one group criminalizes the others."
“In reality, the immigrant community that is working, in a household it could be a dreamer, it could be a farm worker,” Lowe said. “It could be a Temporary Protected Status recipient, and it could be a construction worker in the same household. Each one these crumbs that the Biden administration and the Democrats are introducing, it will only protect one of the five in the household.”
Lowe said all immigrants and undocumented workers deserve permanent protection because they continued to work throughout the pandemic, she said, and they didn’t receive stimulus checks or other financial aid.
So, one thing they’re fighting for now is driver's licenses, Lowe said. It’ll help immigrants get to work and even buy beer. They even re-introduced legislation in Lansing in mid-May to help make it easier to obtain them. FOX 17 reached out to a few lawmakers who opposed the legislation and are waiting to hear back.
In the meantime, Lowe hopes that more immigrants will be considered for citizenship. She believes it begins with a mindset change.
“This rhetoric about who’s the best immigrant or who’s the immigrant that you want for the country instead of looking at it as the whole human being” is the type of conversations she said lawmakers should be having. “[Immigrants] with family, with mistakes, with also being participants of daily life in the United States, as workers, as people going to school, as people going to church, as people bringing culture, food and music. So, the whole human being and not just for our labor.”
This digital embed tracks the status of political and policy promises President Joe Biden pledged to achieve within his first 100 days in office, including his immigration-related pledges. This embed is current as of April 26, 2021, and will be updated as events warrant.