A Michigan group advocating for migrants in the country illegally said its constituency is to be credited for flipping the state House last November and creating a one-seat majority for Democrats.
Rural Democracy Initiative said its work won the Traverse City-area seat previously held by Republican Rep. Jack O’Malley and replaced him with progressive Democrat Betsy Coffia:
We The People built a powerful campaign where undocumented leaders who can’t vote organized their families and friends who could to cast their ballot for Coffia—who had been organizing in the community for 10 years and standing up for working people time and again. Coffia won by just over 700 votes; migrant workers were critical to winning the seat that flipped the State House.
At the time, Coffia was We The People Action Fund’s “rural lead organizer.”
Rural Democracy Initiative explained the objective: “Undocumented people in Michigan have been fighting to win back driver’s licenses for years and knew this race was critical for determining control of policymaking.”
Democrats are poised to deliver the payoff.
The Detroit News reported last week:
The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bill package, HB 4410-4412 and SB 265-267, was introduced last month in both the state House and Senate. A similar package of bills was initiated in both chambers in 2021, but didn’t move beyond committee hearings.
If the measures pass, Michigan would become the nation’s 20th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow driver’s licenses to all immigrants irrespective of their legal status, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D) told the paper the legislation “will finally allow all Michiganders to engage in our economy, have access to basic freedoms, and do so with the guarantee of safety. If you live in Michigan and have proven you can be a responsible driver, you should be able to obtain a license, regardless of your immigration status. The safety of our residents should not depend on whether the federal government has figured out our broken immigration system.”
Despite being created in 2020, We The People and We The People Action Fund have received serious funding from unnamed, so-called “dark money” donors.
According to Guidestar, a website that tracks non-profit organizations, We The People Michigan received over $7 million in a year:
We The People Action Fund took in over $2 million:
The funding has allowed the two entities to hire a significant number of people, including a 6-person communications team. A listing on its website said it was also adding a cultural strategist, Detroit organizer, and southeast Michigan lead organizer.
Two of Coffia’s colleagues at We The People Michigan explained how the nonprofits used the drivers license issue to chase votes for Coffia and Joey Andrews, another Democrat running in an historically Republican area.
Nelly Fuentes and Diego Navarrete wrote at Forge Organizing:
There are now two representatives heading to Lansing, put into power by the organizing efforts of undocumented immigrants, who have committed to fighting for driver’s licenses on day one. Through sustained, long-term organizing in rural communities, undocumented folks in Michigan are demonstrating that we ultimately wield the power to effect change and can use elections as a powerful tool in winning campaigns for our rights.
The electoral organizing of undocumented Michiganders tipped the scale of power in the 38th and 103rd districts, providing Democrats with a slim, one-seat majority in the House, flipping the seats that flipped the legislature.
Among the unsung heroes of the Democrats’ historic triumph in the Michigan legislature are the same unsung heroes that have kept our country fed for generations: rural, undocumented farmworkers and their families. The first Michigan Democratic trifecta in 40 years was hand-delivered by the calloused hands of undocumented organizers across northern and southwest rural communities.
Coffia won by just over 700 votes, while Andrews won by about 1,500.
HB 4410, the Drive SAFE Act, was introduced April 13 and referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.