Two years ago, Georgia passed one of the most stringent immigration laws in the country, House Bill 87. Both supporters and opponents of the bill now agree that it has a major flaw which needs to be fixed quickly. As written, the law subjects U.S. citizens renewing a professional license to months of delay, costing many of them their jobs and livelihood.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle wisely pledged to work together to do away with this unacceptable consequence. Straightforward, fix-it bills were introduced in the state House and Senate. Unfortunately, a few legislators have made last-minute changes to one of the bills, sending it in a completely different direction. Their amendments threaten to embroil Georgia into another protracted and rancorous debate over provisions similar to the one that prompted a fix in the first place.
The amended bill would make it a crime for state and local government officials to accept any foreign passport as proof of identification unless the passport is accompanied by proof of legal immigration status. This, even though a passport is the most secure form of ID issued by an individual’s country of citizenship and one that’s accepted by the federal TSA for airplane travel, where security is paramount. It defies common sense to make it a crime for government workers to accept foreign passports as proof that a person is who they say they are.
Although the consequences of this provision may not be readily apparent, it could bar immigrants from obtaining marriage certificates in counties such as Fulton where a foreign passport is readily accepted as ID for this transaction, and prevent children of immigrants from attending public schools to the extent that the schools require proof of ID for enrollment.
Another of the amendments could make it impossible for some lawfully present immigrants including young people granted deferred action from deportation and individuals granted reprieve from natural disasters and war to obtain driver’s licenses.
Besides the harm to individuals, the amendments would impose an unfair burden on local governments across Georgia.
These changes inject chaos into an otherwise sensible proposal. Let’s get back to making common sense, constructive change. Legislators and the governor can do that, by supporting the original fix-it bills that lawmakers crafted to address a problem they agreed needed attention.
Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director, ACLU of Georgia