Bill Could Mark Noncitizen Licenses

An amendment to a proposed state bill could mark the IDs of some legal Georgia residents who are not U.S. citizens with the term “noncitizen.”

After a 4-3 Committee of Motor Vehicles vote in favor of attaching an amendment to the bill, House Bill 136 (H.B. 136) will progress through the Georgia House of Representatives for further deliberation, according to State Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta).

The proposed amendment calls for the term “noncitizen” to be displayed prominently on temporary licenses, permits and identification cards issued by the state of Georgia.

The provision could prevent noncitizens from taking advantage of benefits reserved for U.S. citizens such as voter registration, said State Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), who presented the amendment in Committee Feb. 7. The amendment could affect the hundreds of thousands of legal Georgia residents who are not U.S. citizens, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The language employed in the amendment quickly became a point of contention among some Georgia House representatives, according to State Rep. and Minority Caucus Vice-Chairman Robert Trammell (D-Luthersville).

Trammell said his Democratic colleagues voted against the amendment because they viewed the “noncitizen” label as unnecessary, as well as likely to subject those with the demarcation to unfair treatment.

“The House Democratic Caucus is resolutely against an effort that would attempt to label lawful residents in this state in a manner which could subject them to harassment, intimidation or discriminatory treatment,” Trammell said.

Trammell added that the amendment would stunt Georgia’s efforts to attract “the most talented folks … whether they be college students … workers [or] professionals.”

If the Committee votes to advance H.B. 136 again, Trammell said, the bill will appear in the Georgia House Rules Committee, where its language could still be subject to revision. If the bill is passed through to the Rules Committee, then H.B. 136 will be placed on the General Calendar for the House and “called by the speaker for vote by the whole House,” Trammell said. Should the bill pass through Georgia legislature, it would affect cards issued from the bill’s enactment date.

Noncitizens who have documents proving they are legally in the country — such as international students with residency in Georgia — have a “limited-term” label on their licenses. Argentinean citizen and College junior Micaela Grimaldi’s Georgia license has such a label. Grimaldi, who received her license November 2016, expressed concern about the potential “noncitizen” label.

“I find the word ‘noncitizen’ to be much more aggressive,” Grimaldi said. “It kind of feels almost like an accusation.”

Grimaldi said she is worried this amendment could affect future interactions between noncitizens and law enforcement officers.

“I don’t know if [the label] would mean that the punishment would be more severe or if I would be perceived in a different way, merely because of that word,” Grimaldi said.

Powell said in a Feb. 7 Committee meeting that the “noncitizen” term should at least be included alongside the “limited-term” on identification materials.

“It seems to be that if someone is in this country either by visa legally, or illegally … that if nothing else … [identification materials] should also have ‘noncitizen,’ ” Powell said. “That way … point blank, it would be spelled out.”

State Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta) said that adding the term “noncitizen” to IDs does little to bolster H.B. 136. State Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram) voiced sentiments similar to Prince’s regarding the functionality of this amendment.

“The Department of Motor Vehicles already goes through a process to determine if you are a citizen or a noncitizen,” Alexander said. “There is no need to have anything on the driver’s license saying that.”

While she supported H.B. 136 in its original form, Alexander said she will oppose the bill should the “noncitizen” amendment remain.

Prince, Alexander and Trammell expressed skepticism about this amendment’s ability to pass a vote of the entire House toward implementation — at least with its current language.

“I expect and hope that you would see a lot of pushback against this [amendment],” Trammell said.

Carter and Powell did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.