Not having a valid driver’s license is a significant obstacle for many undocumented workers. The driver’s license is an important way to get to jobs or school, but also much needed form of identification. Until a few years ago, getting a driver’s license was possible for all Georgia residents who could pass the written and road tests. But a national crackdown lead by anti-immigration forces, change that. Now, when applying for a license, you must present your full social security number, and proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the United States, which is not possible for those who were brought to this country as children and who are currently lacking lawful status. For those immigrants who obtain work permits under the deferred action plan created by President Obama, getting a Georgia driver’s license has become possible.
This week Attorney General Sam Olens wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. The Associated Press reports that AG Olens, a Republican said in the letter, “While I do not agree with the actions of the President in issuing the directive, it has been implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), and state law recognizes the approval of deferred action status as a basis for issuing a temporary driver’s license.” According to the article, this letter came after “a Georgia Department of Driver Services spokeswoman said last week that Georgia law considers those with deferred action status eligible for driver’s licenses and added that the agency would issue them unless it got other instructions.”
Although it might seem like this would be a universal decision, in many states governors are taking the opposite action and expressly barring their Departments of Motor Vehicles from issuing license. Not surprisingly, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is refusing to grant licenses. Following her lead are Nebraska and Texas. Though it is not completely clear if Governor Deal will follow the recommendation of his AG and the Georgia DDS, by seeking their guidance it suggests that he is interested in following their recommendations, particularly because to do otherwise would be at odds with his own party’s Attorney General.