Immigrants Able to Get Drivers Licenses in Georgia

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

It was one of the most anti-immigrant laws in the United States. The State of Georgia had passed a law that would deny drivers licenses to immigrants who could not demonstrate a history of continuous lawful presence in the United States despite having legal papers, authorization to work, and green cards. The law was in effect denying them the privilege to drive simply because the Georgian state legislators felt that those who were not permanently living in the United States for years should not have driver’s licenses. But if immigrants are legally here, and have residency, does it matter how long they have been in this country? This law was denying them an important legal protection, and the law was challenged by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In a settlement before a federal court, the law was struck down as unconstitutional while the State of Georgia did not admit that it had acted improperly. The policy had also denied immigrants who were living in Georgia and had lived in Georgia for years driver’s licenses. This arbitrary action meant that people who needed to drive to get to work could not do so. How many immigrants lost their jobs because of this law is hard to say, but it did impact so many who were able to drive previously but were being denied the privilege to drive under the new law. But it is a good thing this law was struck down because had it stood then other states might have tried to pass similar laws. In an election year where immigrants are being made scapegoats, it is good to know that the judicial system is bucking this trend.

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