melissa blogA Senate bill threatens to spend hundreds of thousands of Georgia taxpayer dollars to compel work-eligible immigrants to carry both a drivers’ privilege card and a special identification card. If this bill passes, Georgia is obligated to waste effort and expense to address unproven problems while it further stigmatizes immigrants.

Senate Bill 6, up for a vote in that chamber Monday, Feb. 29, calls for the state to design and produce both a drivers’ privilege card and a special ID card to replace the one drivers’ license that so many thousands of immigrants already carry. The bill distinguishes the new cards from others issued in Georgia with the words, fonts, and colors used. Producing these cards could come with design and printing costs of more than $450,000, not including cost of required fingerprinting or the time spent issuing additional cards, creating procedures and executing contracts.

The bill’s supporters argue that drivers’ privilege and special ID cards for these work-eligible immigrants are needed so that they are not confused with the driver’s licenses given to other Georgia residents. The ID will help prevent voter fraud and increase public safety, they say. In reality this bill will throw taxpayer dollars at unsubstantiated problems while stigmatizing people lawfully present in the state.

The driver’s licenses of Georgians eligible to work without threat of deportation already contain the words “limited term” to distinguish them from other licenses. Georgians who secured this eligibility under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) problem pose no threat to national security or public safety; otherwise they would not have been granted deferred status. The notion of systematic voter fraud is widely discredited.

Still, Georgia seems poised to throw away more than $450,000 tilting at windmills. Maybe lawmakers will take time to consider the examples of other states. Nevada officials estimated it would cost $75,000 to design a new card for noncitizens, while Colorado officials projected that its design costs would amount to $390,000. Identification cards in other states cost an estimated $3 per card to produce, which would rack up about $60,000 in costs here if only half of the Georgians currently eligible for DACA are forced to obtain them. These expenses do not include fingerprinting costs, required under the bill. Nor does that cost include other administrative expenses like processing costs, training or contract negotiation.

Some might argue costs will be offset with revenues charged for license fees, but fixed costs, like those for design and training, must be paid well before revenues from license fees might help recoup them.

The ID cost might not seem great in the context of a state budget measured in billions. Still, the state just finished a budget vetting process when some state service providers were questioned by lawmakers over their funding requests for next year to help provide needed services for residents. Some of the requests were less than $500,000 and many did not receive the amounts they requested. If SB 6 becomes law, legislators might as well set fire to half a million dollars with no real point.

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Melissa Johnson
Melissa Johnson joined GBPI in 2012 as a policy analyst responsible for analyzing Georgia budget and policy decisions in the areas of poverty reduction, social services, and workforce supports. Within these areas, Melissa’s priorities include state and federal safety net programs, Unemployment Insurance, vocational rehabilitation programs, and child welfare programs. Melissa holds a Juris Doctor from Emory University in addition to a MBA and Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

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