Bill would require ‘noncitizen’ driver’s licenses for legal residents

The Georgia Department of Driver Services says it issued 229,932 licenses or ID cards to non-citizens last year.

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 non-citizens from registering to vote or taking advantage of other benefits reserved for U.S. citizens.

“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 ‘non-citizen.’”

The Georgia Department of Driver Services already issues "limited term" licenses to non-citizens who are in the country legally. It also issues such licenses to some people who immigrated here without authorization — including those who arrived in the United States as children and were granted a reprieve from deportation under former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

DDS says it issued 229,932 licenses or ID cards to non-citizens last year. That includes legal permanent residents, or people who have a green card. All of them would be subject to the non-citizen driver’s license provision, the agency confirmed.

State Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, questioned the usefulness of Powell's amendment. He wondered what police officers would make of the non-citizen stamp if they pulled over a legal resident.

Powell said he doesn’t see any downside to the non-citizen label.

“I don’t think non-citizen 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.

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