Ga. Senate Approves Driver's License Bill For Deferred Action Immigrants

Mar 1, 2016

The Georgia Senate approved a bill on Monday that would require immigrants who have deferred action on deportation be issued separate driver’s licenses and ID cards that explicitly say they don’t have lawful status.

The state Senate passed the measure, Senate Bill 6,  37-17. 

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said the bill would address concerns about voter fraud and public safety, while critics say the bill is unnecessary and puts a “Scarlet Letter” on immigrants with deferred action, who meet certain criteria to stay in the U.S. – including young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and fall under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.  

Under the bill, those with deferred action would be issued separate “driving safety cards” that wouldn't be eligible for identification purposes. To distinguish the cards from regular driver’s licenses, the cards would be vertical, instead of horizontal, and include the words “No Lawful Status,” and “Not Acceptable for Official Purposes.”

An earlier version of the bill proposed the cards read "Illegal Alien."

“A driver’s license really affords someone a great deal of privileges beyond simply driving the roadways,” McKoon said.  

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor if someone tried to use the driving safety card for ID purposes with the intent to deceive.

Several senators, mostly Democrats, called the bill an effort to stigmatize immigrants.

“There are those times when we seem to be out here legislating where we have a solution in search of a problem,” said Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Tucker.

Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, also spoke out against the bill, calling it more about show than substance.

“Think about it. Why are we doing this?” Williams said. “We’re doing this because there are those in the hall that do not like brown people.”

McKoon closed the debate, and he responded that the purpose of the bill was to reinforce the rule of law.

“That principle doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race,” he said.

Producing and printing the new cards could cost the state around $450,000, according the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Sen. McKoon tried to ban driver's licenses for those with deferred action last year in the same bill, but the proposal never made it out of committee. 

The proposal now moves to the Georgia House for consideration.