Experts are questioning the constitutionality of a bill that would prevent people who are in Georgia illegally from using a foreign passport for identification. State lawmakers passed the bill last month as part of an effort to fix problems with previous immigration legislation.
Originally the bill was intended to ease requirements for renewing professional licenses from the state’s 2011 immigration law.
But conservative lawmakers successfully inserted the passport provision for undocumented residents needing to prove identity or apply for benefits.
Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration attorney who challenged Georgia’s earlier immigration law, says residents here illegally cannot obtain benefits. But they can apply for food stamps, also known as WIC benefits, for their American-born children.
“If the adult in this case is an undocumented parent and the only form of identification the parent has is a valid or even expired foreign passport, federal law will typically allow that document to go through as a form of identify. Georgia is saying, ‘As an administrator of WIC, we will no longer accept that.”
And that might be unconstitutional because the federal government has the power to rule on most immigration matters."
He says there are other instances where the federal government accepts valid or expired passports from undocumented residents. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, will accept foreign passports without immigration documents as a form of ID.
He added, "For federal public benefits, you can present an identity document including a foreign passport that’s expired without valid foreign documents in it to verify identity because you’re only presenting it as your identity, not your immigration status.”
Gov. Nathan Deal has yet to sign the bill. He backed the 2011 immigration law that Kuck and others challenged.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parts of an Arizona immigration law, which was a model for Georgia's immigration measure, were unconstitutional. Specifically, the High Court found the law, like Georgia's, encroached on federal power.