Ga. Senator Wants Separate Driver Cards For ‘Illegal Aliens’

Feb 8, 2016

A Georgia lawmaker wants immigrants who have temporary relief from deportation to replace their driver’s licenses with cards that can’t be used for identification purposes, and that are marked with the words “illegal alien.” 

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, tried last year to ban driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal status who have temporary protection from deportation. The proposal failed in the Senate.  

McKoon says the new proposal is a compromise to last year’s bill and would allow those with deferred action to drive but prevent them from using the cards for identification purposes. The “driver’s privilege cards” would be used for driving purposes only, he said. 

The measure would apply to certain immigrants without legal status who have deferred action,  including those who were brought to the country illegally as young children and fall under a federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The proposed cards would be vertical, instead of horizontal, and be marked with the words “Temporary” and “Illegal Alien.” 

“The nearly identical version that is currently received could easily be used to register to vote,” McKoon said. "It could be used to rent a car, to purchase explosives, a number of things that frankly, have nothing to do with driving an automobile."

Sen. Josh McKoon shows the back of the proposed driver's privilege card.
Credit Elly Yu / WABE

McKoon couldn’t give a hard figure on what the cost would be to replace cards, but said he would include language in the bill that would make it contingent on budget appropriations.

“It’s hard for me to put a price on a security mechanism to ensure the integrity of our voting process and to keep our people safe from potential terrorist attacks,” he said. 

Opponents of the idea say the proposal discriminates against a specific immigrant group and uses pejorative language. 

“Basically he wants to implement a ‘Scarlet Letter’ for these young students,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Gonzalez  said there’s already a rigorous process for people to prove U.S. citizenship when registering to vote, and the process actually prevents some citizens from registering.