Immigrants without legal status sue for Georgia driver’s licenses

A group of immigrants who are living in Georgia without legal status filed suit against Georgia’s Department of Driver Services in federal court Monday, accusing the state agency of violating their constitutional rights by denying them driver’s licenses.

The lawsuit says the plaintiffs — not named in the court papers because of “safety concerns” and “possible retaliation” — have been ordered deported and are seeking to have their removals suspended or whose home countries won’t accept them back. The federal government has issued them work permits and Social Security numbers, indicating they are legally present in the U.S. Historically, such people have been able to obtain driver’s licenses in Georgia, according to the lawsuit. But the state started rejecting them this summer, saying they are “not legally in the United States.”

Citing data from various policy groups, the lawsuit says there are tens of thousands of such people living in the U.S. The lawsuit accuses the state agency of violating their Equal Protection rights.

The Department of Driver Services declined to comment.

“There is no rational basis for the policy, or even any benefit to the state of Georgia as a result of the policy,” says the lawsuit, filed by Taylor, Lee and Associates, a Norcross-based immigration law firm. “Indeed, if anything, the refusal to issue driver’s licenses to this group of immigrants costs the state of Georgia millions of dollars in lost administrative fees from potential registered drivers.”

This year, a bill that would block state driver’s licenses for immigrants who have been granted a special reprieve from deportation stalled in the state Legislature. In January, a federal judge issued an injunction, blocking Arizona from denying state driver’s licenses for immigrants who have been granted deportation deferrals through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.