Target: Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia
Goal: Stop placing extreme burdens on Georgia’s immigrant and low-income populations.
Undocumented immigrants in Georgia are currently at the mercy of strict state laws regarding driving without a license. These laws do not “protect citizens from unlicensed drivers,” as state lawmakers have claimed, but exist to force immigrants to “self-deport,” or leave the state.
According to a report released by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, and the Advancement Project, based in Washington, D.C., the state’s laws add to the struggles of hard-working, undocumented immigrants in Georgia, as well a low-income citizens without driver’s licenses, forcing them deeper into economic woes. The law, passed as Senate Bill 350 in 2008, increased fines and penalties for unlicensed drivers in the state, and further made the fourth such offense within a five-year period a felony.
According to Adelina Nicholls, the executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, “some immigrants are not able to produce driver’s licenses, and if they’re arrested for the first time they’re paying between $700 to $1,000.” She continued by saying “the city of Roswell is charging people $3,500 in bond for the first offense.”
There is currently no way for people without legal status to obtain a driver’s license is Georgia and a severe lack of public transportation makes getting around extremely difficult. Ignacio Portillo, a contractor who has spoken publicly about Georgia’s intense unlicensed driver laws, has said his family has suffered “severe economic consequences” as a result of these laws.
Findings by the Advancement Project have highlighted that the law is “racially discriminatory” and is having “a disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
Dear Governor Deal,
The unlicensed driver laws in Georgia are designed to force immigrants to “self-deport” and have devastating effects on low-income communities and communities of color. According to studies done on the effects of these laws, they do not “protect citizens from unlicensed drivers,” as many in the state’s General Assembly attest. These laws carry stiff financial penalties that perpetuate poverty and the felonious nature of the fourth offense in five years is outrageous.
Considering the public transportation situation in Georgia leaves a lot to be desired, many families who cannot afford driver’s licenses are forced to drive to work without them, the penalties notwithstanding. This needs to be considered in context to the state’s unlicensed driver laws.
We urge you to take the findings by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and the Advancement Project seriously and work with the Georgia General Assembly to take these laws off the books, ending an unethical statute designed to malign immigrants and perpetuate poverty cycles in the state of Georgia.
[Your Name Here]
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