Hundreds of thousands of legal Georgia residents who are not U.S. citizens would have their driver’s licenses branded with the term “noncitizen” under a bill that passed a House of Representatives committee Tuesday.
The provision’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said it could prevent noncitizens from registering to vote or take advantage of other benefits reserved for U.S. citizens.
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“I don’t care if you’re a regional vice president for Mercedes,” Powell told the House Motor Vehicles Committee Tuesday. “If you’re in this country and can get a driver’s license, it at least ought to have on there ‘noncitizen.’”
The Georgia Department of Driver Services already issues labeled “limited term” licenses to noncitizens who are in the country legally. It also issues such licenses to some people who immigrated here without authorization -- like people who arrived in the United States as children who were granted a reprieve from deportation under former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Georgia does not issue driver’s licenses to people who are not in the United States legally.
DDS says it issued 229,932 licenses or ID cards to noncitizens last year. That includes legal permanent residents, or people who have a “green card.” All of them would be subject to the “noncitizen” driver’s license provision, DDS confirmed.
State Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, questioned the usefulness of Powell’s amendment. He wondered what police officers would make of the “noncitizen” stamp if they pulled over a legal resident.
“If you’re not legal, you can’t get licenses at all anyway,” McClain said.
Powell said he doesn’t see any downside to the “noncitizen” label.
“I don’t think ‘noncitizen’ is a very offensive term,” Powell said. “It just clearly states it.”
By a 4-3 vote, the Motor Vehicles Committee attached Powell’s provision to House Bill 136, which would allow Georgia residents to keep their old driver’s licenses when they renew them. The committee then approved the amended bill.
Last year a bill that would have created special driver’s licenses and ID cards identifying immigrants without legal status passed the Senate but died in the House.