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Immigrants kick off four-day march touting right to obtain driver’s licenses

Dozens of immigrants and advocates kicked off a four-day march from Framingham to Boston on Friday to demand that non-citizens be allowed to obtain Massachusetts driver’s licenses.

The marchers left Framingham Town Hall around 4 p.m. to begin the 22-mile “La Gran Caminata,” or the Grand Walk. They plan to trek to Waltham and Somerville and arrive at the State House in Boston by mid-afternoon Monday. Along the way, they will hold public forums.

Undocumented immigrants without driver’s licenses risk being detained for deportation, participants say.

“We’re fighting to be more safe,’’ said Erika Arevalo, 34, an immigrant participating in the march. “Already in the immigrant community, people are tired of living in fear of deportation.”

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The marchers will speak out in support of a bill in the state Legislature that would allow any qualified resident to receive a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of their citizenship status.

The bill, the Work and Family Mobility Act, was introduced in January but hasn’t moved past the Joint Committee on Transportation. Governor Charlie Baker opposes the measure.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C., offer licenses regardless of immigration status.

Marches are also being conducted in other states as part of a national effort by Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrant advocacy network. The group has been leading the movement in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, and Indiana under the campaign “#ManejandoSinMiedo” or “Driving Without Fear.”

“We’re just asking the [Massachusetts] Transportation Committee to hold a hearing, take a vote, and do their job,” Emily Bloch, a local Cosecha worker said. “People are walking across the state in four days, and we’re just asking for something really basic.”

Along the route, community members have offered food and said they would open up their homes for marchers. Two Framingham homestays offered to host the group overnight, as did the First Parish Church in Waltham and the First Church Somerville United Church of Christ.

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Dylan Lazerow, a local Cosecha member, encouraged others to join the marchers by meeting them at the community forums or contacting organizers for updates on their whereabouts.

“People are walking because they can’t drive,” Lazerow said. “It shouldn’t be a luxury to take your kid to work or to take them to do something fun.’’

Amparo Bonilla, an immigrant from Worcester who joined the group Friday, said she needed a license to take her daughters to school, doctor appointments, and leisure activities.

“I’m marching today not because it’s a right for me, but because it’s a right for my daughters,” Bonilla said. “I’ll be very tired, but it’s worth what we’re fighting for.”


Annika Hom can be reached at annika.hom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.