Just as Georgia looked like it was getting to grips with the damage caused by HB 87, the state’s Arizona-inspired anti-immigration law, some lawmakers are trying again to take new measures that will further marginalize and marginalize immigrants would exclude our community.

SB 458 contains two particularly worrying provisions. Undocumented students would be banned from all public universities and colleges in Georgia even though they pay extra-state tuition fees. Much is at stake as many of these exemplary youths are either being forced to leave the state to go to school elsewhere or they are giving up their dreams altogether.

The second provision buried in the bill may seem technical, but it is actually quite insidious and far-reaching. The legislature now wants to prohibit the state and local governments from accepting many foreign passports as proof of identity. In fact, immigrants and foreign tourists alike could fail to prove their identities in a variety of interactions, denying them access to certain government buildings, depriving them of vital services such as water and sewage, and even thwarting their marriageability – a fundamental constitutional right. The 11th District Court of Appeals blocked provisions with similar effects in Alabama earlier this month.

Why does the legislature handle foreign passports? HB 87 asked Attorney General Sam Olens to publish a list of “safe and verifiable documents” and banned state and local governments from accepting other identification documents. Olens was hardly upset when he put foreign passports on his list. Finally, passports are accepted by the Federal Traffic Safety Authority for air travel where security is synonymous. Apparently, some Georgia lawmakers believe they know better by removing foreign passports from the Attorney General’s list of “safe and verifiable documents” unless the passport is accompanied by “a valid United States Homeland Security Form I-94 or I-94A or other federal document “filed indicating the lawful immigration status of a foreigner.”

This seemingly technical change would not only affect undocumented immigrants. Foreign visitors from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program do not have the forms required on the invoice. What do the politicians who support this law have against British, Swedish and Japanese tourists? Is Georgia really trying to scare off foreign tourism from 36 of the world’s richest countries by sending travelers a message that they’d better be careful because their passports aren’t serving as identification in Georgia?

Some reforms in SB 458 sensibly relieve unnecessary burdens on HB 87 for the residents and authorities of the country. However, the student ban and foreign passport regulations are pushing Georgia in the completely opposite direction, creating new controversy, litigation and reputational damage.

The disastrous effects of HB 87 on the economy and reputation of Georgia are being felt by many across the state. Georgian lawmakers and Governor Nathan Deal should firmly reject any further attempts to make Georgia an unwelcome state for immigrants.

(Originally published in the Fulton County Daily Report.)

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