Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Wednesday that aims to fix some unintended consequences of the state’s 2011 crackdown on illegal immigration.
The legislation also expands certain parts of that law, including those having to do with secure forms of identification and public benefits. Critics have said the law could keep people who are in the country illegally from accessing certain government services or buildings for which an ID is required.
Under the 2011 law cracking down on illegal immigration, the state attorney general’s office was charged with creating a list of “secure and verifiable” documents that government agencies could accept if they require identification for an official purpose. The bill signed Wednesday removes foreign passports from the list unless they are accompanied by federal documents proving legal residence. It also adds U.S. birth certificates and certification of birth abroad issued by the U.S. State Department to the list of acceptable documents.
The bill adds grants, public and assisted housing, retirement benefits and state driver’s licenses to a list of public benefits for which people living in the country illegally are not eligible.
Some state agencies — including the secretary of state’s office, which issues professional licenses — had complained that a provision of the 2011 law that required applicants for public benefits to resubmit the documents each time they requested or renewed a public benefit with the same agency created extra work and caused delays.
State Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville said when lawmakers consider legislation, they look at five things, including constitutionality, increasing personal responsibility, decreasing the size of government, family friendliness and business friendliness.
“There were aspects of that legislation that were not family friendly or business friendly, so we tried to just clean up some of those redundancies,” the Republican said.
The bill says U.S. citizenship applicants will not have to resubmit their documents to renew a public benefit or to apply for a different public benefit from the same government or agency. Applicants who aren’t U.S. citizens would have to resubmit the documents each time because their legal status can change.
The legislation also says applications or renewals can be submitted in person, by mail or electronically within nine months before the application deadline as long as the document remains valid.