Immigrants’ rights groups gathered at the State Capitol Monday to applaud what appears to be the end of two pieces of legislation. One bill would have denied drivers’ licenses to immigrants who’ve received temporary protective status. A proposed resolution would have made English Georgia’s official language.
Thai Ly is a U.S. citizen living in metro Atlanta. She came to the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee. Ly is a Republican, but opposes GOP-sponsored House Resolution 1031, which would make English Georgia’s official language. It would also require that driver's license exams be given only in English.
Speaking through an interpreter, Ly said she’d like to get her license, but needs to take the test in Vietnamese.
The groups also opposed Senate Bill 404, which denies drivers’ licenses to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enacted by President Obama. The program grants temporary protection to some adults who were brought to the U.S. as children, like 22-year-old Mitzy Calderon. She said she’s confused by the sentiment behind the legislation.
“I had to go to a lawyer and pay a lot of fees in order to have my legal status now,” she said. “So, it’s like now they want to take that away from me and I really don’t understand why. I want to go to school. I want to go to Georgia State. I work, so how am I going to get to work in order to earn money to get my degree?”
Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) is that bill’s primary sponsor. He told members of the group he doesn’t think it’s responsible to issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Helen Kim Ho is the executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center. She responded that DACA recipients have legal protections.
Ho: “If they get approved, then they get temporary work status, which allows them to get a driver’s license legally. So, you are attacking people with legal status.”
Heath: “But the federal government is choosing not to enforce its immigration laws.”
Ho: “That is one of their immigration policies that they just passed.”
Heath: “It’s a policy and not a law.”
Ho: “You can’t keep asking for the federal government to change immigration laws and when they do, not follow it.”
Both pieces of legislation appear to be dormant. Jeff Mullis, chairman of the Senate rules committee, said neither one seemed to gather much momentum.