GA legislators push for branding immigrants’ licenses with the term ‘non-citizen’

House Bill 324 (HB 324) would require the explicit labeling of “non-citizen” on all Georgia immigrants’ driver’s licenses.

Valerie Porter, Atlanta resident and wife to an immigrant,  is not in support of the “alarming” legislation. To her, this bill is government overreach.

“I see this bill as a form of harassment,” Porter said. “A sort of ‘death by a 1,000 paper cuts’ approach to immigrant policy.”

Porter argued that in recent years there has been a cultural shift in America where lawmakers have been fighting for what she sees as discriminatory legislation like HB 324. She said that this legislation would provide no new security or information to law enforcement or employers that would be looking at the license but instead, she believes it would lead to harassment of those with the “non-citizen” ID label.

“I think the law is an example of an emerging authoritarian approach to governance,” Porter said.

“And citizens are supporting these measures either naively or as an extension of prejudice but aren’t paying attention to the effect it has on our democracy. Georgia lawmakers are trying to utilize administrative bureaucracies to harass individuals. That’s alarming to me.”

The bill held its first hearing on Feb. 2, with D.A. King, a long-time outspoken lobbyist, speaking out in support of the bill, saying it was an issue of “public safety”.

“What we should be doing is … to make a driver’s license that clearly notes the illegal status of the bearer. It could not be used to vote, it could not be used to board an airline, it could only be used for permission to drive,” he said.

King said that the state would be moving towards public safety by clearly denoting a person’s illegal status on their license.

But student Susana Durán Perez also took a stand at the hearing saying that no one ought to know whether a person is an immigrant just by viewing their license. She opposed previous arguments favoring the bill by saying that not all immigrants were criminals, and there was no proof that immigrants were a cause of voter fraud in Georgia, so she “failed to see how non-citizens will impact public safety.”

And Georgia State alumnus Roberto Gutierrez said he stands against the bill as well. Though he is not personally affected by the bill, he is a strong opposer of it.

“When you brand people as ‘non-citizen’, you set up grounds for discrimination,” he said.

Gutierrez believes this bill will further divide what is an already, in his opinion, divided country.

“Policies affect people,”  Gutierrez said. “We need policies that support us rather than [policies that] separate people.”

While Carolina Antonini, a Law Professor at Georgia State, doesn’t believe the bill will pass, she is worried about the impacts it could have on Georgia if it does.

“Given the anti-immigration environment created by the new White House, this time around, I am truly concerned about the passage of this bill,” Antonini said. “It will set Georgia back politically, socially, economically and morally.”

Antonini commented on the subliminal messages that come with the label and how it encourages racist tendencies towards those that possess it.

“A branded license is no more than a scarlet letter,” Antonini said. “It sends a subliminal message to anyone viewing it that there are lower classes of people with substandard rights and those who may be prone to cross the racist line will feel permitted, encouraged.”

The process of labeling licenses is another way of branding classes that separates the population and damages society, according to Antonini.

“To issue branded licenses takes Georgia to a deeper and darker side of the road: not only is Georgia going to decide who really is legal, it is going to brand those who are not “one of us” and will “out” those people to society for whatever consequences that attaches,” Antonini said. “The implication is that each time the license is used, the requester (police, bank, bartender, store clerk) will [be] branding. The pure act of holding a branded card is damaging to the fiber of society as we, once again, having learned nothing from our painful history, again seek to separate us in classes of superiority. This is morally devastating.”