Georgia legislators rejected a measure Tuesday that would have prohibited undocumented immigrants benefiting under President Barack Obama executive immigration actions from getting a state driver’s license. With a 27-16 vote, the Georgia Senate defeated a Republican floor amendment that aimed to extend an active ban on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants to those who have received “deferred action” on their status in the country, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. The Georgia lawmakers then passed an underlying bill that brings driver’s license regulations into compliance with federal law.
Sen. Josh McKoon, the Republican who proposed the amendment, said undocumented immigrants were costing Georgia $2.4 billion per year and sought to discourage illegal immigration by imposing a ban on licenses. Democrats in the Georgia Senate who opposed the measure argued that it was unfair to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents and are now enrolled in school or working and paying taxes.
“This is going after college students ... [and] members of the military who are not here because of any action of their own,” said Sen. Curt Thompson, a Democrat. Other opponents said business leaders in Georgia were not supportive of the Republican proposal, the Chronicle reported. “International corporations who have their North American headquarters here feel this is very ill-advised legislation,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, a Democrat.
Driver’s licenses and municipal ID cards are available to undocumented immigrants in more than a dozen states and cities in the U.S. In January, California, which has the country's largest undocumented immigrant population, became the 10th state to allow them to drive legally. Other states granting licenses to undocumented immigrants include Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico and Utah. Also in January, New York City launched the nation’s most ambitious municipal ID program, extending them to all residents without regard to immigration status. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New Haven, Connecticut, are among other cities with similar municipal ID programs.