Changes in state immigration bill draw opposition
by The Associated Press
March 09, 2013 12:15 AM | 1365 views | 8 8 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — Some quiet changes to a bill that was intended as a simple fix for unintended consequences of a 2011 crackdown on illegal immigration have turned the bill that originally had pretty universal support into a rallying point for activists on all sides of the immigration issue.

The bill sponsored by state Rep. Dustin Hightower (R-Carrollton) was presented as a solution to complaints from several state agencies that Georgia’s 2011 law was creating extra work and delays in processing public benefits, including professional licenses.

It was an almost purely bureaucratic measure that neither those in favor of tighter controls on illegal immigration nor immigrant rights advocates had paid much attention to.

But the amended bill passed by the House on Monday would effectively deny driver’s licenses to young people who were brought here illegally as children and who have been granted temporary permission to stay and work here under an Obama administration initiative. It also would bar illegal immigrants from being able to get a marriage license or access water and sewage services in the state.

Though the amendments would affect relatively few people, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is quickly organizing efforts to protest the bill.

“All of a sudden, we’re confronted with all of these damaging changes,” the ACLU’s Azadeh Shahshahani said. “These are all additional complications and burdens that we don’t need.”

The Dustin Inman Society, which pushes for stronger laws targeting illegal immigration and stricter enforcement of existing laws, sent out an email blast to supporters urging them to call their lawmakers to tell them to keep Hightower’s bill intact and to defeat a more limited Senate version of the bill.

Though Hightower says he didn’t initially realize the potential effects of the changes, he hasn’t said whether he intends to take them out. He said the additions to his bill weren’t meant to dupe anyone, that they were intended to streamline the legislative process.

“The original intent of this bill was to be something to facilitate people obtaining and keeping a professional license in a much easier fashion,” he said, adding that it was also meant to preserve taxpayer-funded public benefits for U.S. citizens and other eligible legal residents.

Georgia’s 2011 law targeting illegal immigration requires anyone applying for or renewing public benefits — like professional licenses, welfare and unemployment benefits — to provide a “secure and verifiable” document proving their U.S. citizenship or legal presence in the country.

People in the country illegally have long been ineligible for Georgia driver’s licenses. But after the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program took effect in August, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens declared that those with deferred status could get a temporary driver’s license.

However, the advisory opinion Olens issued at Gov. Nathan Deal’s request seems to indicate that those in the federal program are not eligible for state identity cards, because those IDs are subject to the law governing public benefits. The pending legislation adds “state issued driver’s licenses” to the list of public benefits.

Hightower said he didn’t know whether his bill denies driver’s licenses to those granted deferred action, and said that wasn’t his specific intent. But he didn’t say if that was something he’d be in favor of or if he’d reconsider the addition of driver’s licenses to the list of public benefits.

The 2011 law charged the state attorney general’s office with creating a list of documents that government agencies could accept if they require identification for an official purpose. The list currently includes foreign passports, the only document on the list that those in the country illegally would be able to obtain legitimately.

Hightower’s bill says that to be acceptable, foreign passports would have to be accompanied by federal immigration documentation proving someone is in the country legally.

By removing foreign passports from the list unless they’re accompanied by federal immigration documentation, the new bill would technically prevent illegal immigrants from getting a marriage license in Georgia or from accessing water and sewage service in the many municipalities that require identification to turn on service.

Hightower said the possibility of preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining marriage licenses and access to water and sewer services was not intentional. Since being made aware of that issue, he’s looking at what can be done to resolve it, he said.
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Julie Smart
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March 10, 2013
What part of obeying the law do these idiots not understand? No, they are not idiots, but raping our society of resources to take care of our own citizens is down to almost closing the books on our state government. The illegals have done their work well with their advocates pushing the pen and they know what they can get for nothing because they think it is a never ending full pot.... The more they are given the more we are being taxed and the more they are taking. Cut the entitlements such as the EBT cards and what ever else they are eating away off the backs of our citizens. Our federal government is responsible for the prop these illegals are depending on and they are laughing all the way saying, "America has been good to us".
OldWhiteConservative
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March 14, 2013
Do you realize that to have any access to food stamps or EBT cards you have to be a US citizen? How will illegals have access to this when they can't apply because they're here illegally? Now, if you like to say that just because you saw a Hispanic with an EBT card and you think they were illegal, well then you are just proving the stereotype right. So, do your research before you comment. UNDOCUMENTED immigrants do not have access to welfare programs! Do your research! Go after the AMERICAN CITIZENS who eat away your tax payer money, not immigrants!
antilope
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March 09, 2013
Illegal aliens have no rights, if they want drivers liscense, insurance and the benefits that US Citizens have then they need to apply for citizenship. If they have been living here all their life then prove it. If they don't want to apply for citizenship then they have no right to complain. it is time that the US government stand up for our constitution and stop making excuses. I feel if you don't like our constitution then you are more than welcome to leave the US and go back home, we don't need you!
OldWhiteConservative
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March 14, 2013
*sigh* once again another egocentric american who has no notion of what the reality is when it to comes to applying for citizenship. The "just apply for citizenship" argument is old and repetitive. It is not that simple. Do your research and then comment. Why don't you move to the UK and "just apply for citizenship if you want the benefits" there? I'm sure you'll see it's not that easy.
A Taxpayer
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March 09, 2013
Thank you MDJ for alerting everybody to this. I will be sure to call my state senator and representative to tell them to support the Hightower bill. Any law designed to enforce laws that are already in place to combat illegal immigration in Georgia has my enthusiastic support. As for the illegal aliens who were brought here illegally by their parents when they were children: if you are old enough to operate a motor vehicle in Georgia, and presumably responsible enough to get a Georgia driver's license, then you should be old enough and responsible enough to understand that you must go back to your country of origin and go through the legal immigration process that this country has set up. Legal immigrants are welcome with open arms here in this country by its government and its citizens. Illegal immigrants are criminal law-breakers. I'm glad somebody in the state house is finally willing to recognize that.
OldWhiteConservative
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March 14, 2013
If you truly are a "tax payer" you will realize that, as a tax payer, illegal immigrants pay taxes too. No, don't give me the "how can they? they're illegal?" because there's something called Tax ID. Immigrants pay for their children's education too, and if you don't believe me, do your research. What ever happened to "No taxation without representation"? Educate yourself, tax payer.
anonymous
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March 09, 2013
And I wish MK, who will inevidently post a comment here, would "get it" that MK is a mere speck in the dust and MK is only worried about MK's home value and hatred for immigrants and the only spot MK has to vent is right here and MK brings absolutely nothing of value except that MK has found a spot in the MDJ that will post her vile comments. MDJ, waste of space.
anonymous
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March 09, 2013
People, just as with "White People" and the "Indians" and with "African Americans," there will come a time when this country will no longer belong to "White People" and those that fight it are fighting a losing battle. The sooner "White People" get this, the better off. Laws need to be put into place to avoid a takeover and a takeover is coming, like it or not. ALL races and nationalities need to stop fighting against each other. Get it yet? If you don't, you are living in the past.
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