Ethnic groups decry Georgia bills aimed at immigrants without papers

Bills that would place new restrictions on driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal status and amend Georgia’s Constitution to make English the state’s official language are drawing opposition from about 200 ethnic business groups, churches and other organizations.

In a news conference outside the state Capitol Thursday, Dhiru Shah, president-elect of the Global Indian Business Council in Atlanta, joined representatives of the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia in condemning Senate Bill 6 and Senate Resolution 675. They said the measures would stigmatize immigrants without papers and place new burdens on people still learning English.

“What is the message that we are going to give to the people in the world?” Shah said. “We will be telling the rest of the world that Georgia doesn’t need immigrants — that Georgia doesn’t need the businesses of immigrants.”

Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Joshua McKoon of Columbus, both measures won approval in the state Senate last week and are now pending in House committees. McKoon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. But he has previously said the measures would protect public safety, prevent voter fraud and strengthen the state’s position regarding English. State law already makes English the state’s official language.

“We have very little in the way of identity verification for people that are receiving these licenses and who have no lawful status,” McKoon told the Senate last week moments before it approved SB 6. “So you can easily see a situation where someone who wants to do harm — who wants to, for example, pursue a terrorist act of some kind — using a limited-term Georgia driver’s license to access a secure government facility and then carrying out an attack.”

Staff writer Laura Diaz contributed to this report.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.