ATLANTA — Illegal immigrants who are granted permission to stay in the country under an Obama administration policy that was announced in June will be eligible for drivers’ licenses in Georgia, the state’s attorney general wrote in a letter to the governor.
“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,” Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican, wrote in a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Olens said illegal immigrants with the special status would not, however, be eligible for a state identification card. He says such cards are considered public benefits which are not available to illegal immigrants.
Under the policy – which was announced in June and took effect last week – eligible immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, are 30 or younger, have lived here at least five years, and are in school or graduated or served in the military.
They also must not have a criminal record or otherwise pose a safety threat. They can apply to stay in the country and be granted a work permit for two years, but they would not be granted citizenship.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order Aug. 15, the day the policy took effect, telling state agencies not to give driver’s licenses or other benefits to illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under the deferred status.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said this month that each state could determine whether to issue drivers’ licenses or extend benefits such as in-state tuition to immigrants who are granted deferred status.
A Georgia Department of Driver Services spokeswoman said last week that Georgia law considers those with deferred action status eligible for drivers’ licenses and that the agency would issue them unless it got other instructions. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last week asked Olens for guidance on the matter.
Federal immigration authorities can also grant deferred action status to other illegal immigrants at their discretion.