Joint Press Release:
Diverse Coalition Uplifts Bill to Provide Driver’s Licenses for All Residents
Atlanta, GA – A diverse coalition representing survivors of violence, transgender individuals, people impacted by homelessness, those formerly incarcerated, and immigrant communities applauded the reintroduction of HB 833, the Freedom to Drive Bill, that would expand access to driver’s licenses for Georgia residents to strengthen families, improve public safety, and stimulate the economy.
“Driving is essential to access opportunity in Georgia.”, said Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, Executive Director, Asian American Advocacy Fund. “Our current public transportation is limited and insufficient to provide an easy way for most Georgians to get to work, and do everyday things like take your kids to school or the doctor, or buy groceries.” The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on many immigrant communities including an estimated 170,000 undocumented essential workers that have continued to contribute to our state’s economy. By expanding access to drivers licenses regardless of immigration status, we can increase access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines and food distribution. Essential workers in child care, care facilities, health care, construction or the food supply chain will have safer options.
The Freedom to Drive Act would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a new driver’s license called a drivers card. This new license would expand access to residents regardless of legal residency or immigration status, as well as those who struggle to gather the currently necessary documents. Currently, vulnerable populations in Georgia, including survivors of violence, transgender individuals, people impacted by homelessness, formerly incarcerated people, senior citizens, and immigrants of varied statuses face cumbersome barriers to obtaining a Georgia driver’s license.
“Immigrant families, like most families across Georgia use their cars every day. No one should fear that a broken taillight or a minor accident could mean that their family is torn apart,” said LaVita Tuff, Policy Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta. “Right now the system forces many families to choose between getting groceries and driving without a license.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia already allow residents the right to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. Studies show that similar legislation in other states has lowered the number of uninsured drivers, reduced hit-and-run accidents, lowered insurance premiums for everyone, increased state revenue through license applications, and boosted state economies through increased auto and insurance sales. All Georgians are safer when everyone on the road is licensed, insured, and confident while driving.
Lovette Kargbo Thompson, Atlanta Organizer, Black Alliance for Just Immigration states: “Like all Black people in America, Black immigrants are over-represented in the criminal punishment system from arrest rates to sentencing. 76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of criminalization and contact with local police. Anyone caught driving without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor and subsequent violations which can trigger deportations for Black immigrants in Georgia. BAJI supports community-led solutions that improve access to housing, education, job opportunities, youth programs, and health care—including driver’s licenses for all.”
David Schaefer, Research Director, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute states “By fostering a welcoming environment for the one in 10 Georgians who are immigrants, state leaders can enrich our communities, strengthen families and boost economic outcomes. However, Georgia still denies access to a driver’s license to immigrants lacking legal status. A driver’s license is an essential tool that helps Georgians navigate everyday tasks like driving to work, picking up groceries and dropping kids off at school while also improving road safety and providing a modest amount of new revenue from vehicle registration, motor fuel taxes and more. Our Legislature should roll back driving restrictions to afford Georgia immigrants, as well as survivors of domestic abuse, returning citizens and trans Georgians, access to a tool that would promote both safety and prosperity in our state.”
Maria Del Rosario Palacios, Founder & Executive Director, GA Families Unidas states: “HB 833 addresses the largest gap in the livelihood for a significant share of immigrant families working in industries like agriculture, construction, carpet mills, and poultry plants. GA Familias Unidas works closely with working single mothers and working fathers who do not have a license to drive. Yet they have to work six to seven days a week as essential workers in factories that are struggling to meet production demands because of labor shortages. We need HB 833 to ensure working families are not entered into deportation pipelines simply because they had to drive to work without a license. This bill makes our road safers, it promotes family unity, and it prioritizes working families.”
Isabel Otero, Policy Associate, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund states: “As Georgia’s immigrant communities continue to organize for positive change, we welcome this bill from Rep. Nguyen and are grateful for her responsiveness to the needs of the community. HB833 provides state driver cards and identification for every resident of the state, ensures that drivers on Georgia roads are tested and licensed, and interrupts the deportation pipeline that separates families for simply going about their daily lives. Because Georgia has not made progress on public transit, access to mobility is crucial as we work to eradicate poverty and support working families. This is the type of bill that signals Georgia is a welcoming state and one that cares about the well-being of all residents.”
Agbo Ikor, Director of Programs, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, Inc. states: “SPARK recognizes that ease of access to state IDs is important for our community. We hope that Georgia will ease restrictions, and provide greater access to drivers licenses.”
Glory Kilanko, Founder & CEO of Women Watch Afrika, Inc. states: “So many survivors of domestic violence leave an abusive situation without the documents they need to obtain official identification. Therefore, access to driver’s licenses will increase access to the many services that survivors and their families need- including attending doctor’s appointments, court hearings, and appointments at their children’s school. Access to driver’s licenses also increases access to education and job opportunities that are critical to a survivor’s economic self-sufficiency as they rebuild their lives.”
To find more information visit: www.freedomtodrivega.com
Freedom to Drive Georgia Coalition:
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta is the first nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander (AANHPI) and Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in Georgia and the Southeast. For more information about Advancing Justice-Atlanta, visit www.advancingjustice-atlanta.org.
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) educates and engages African American and black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice. BAJI provides training and technical assistance to partner organizations to develop leadership skills, works with faith communities to harness their prophetic voice, and initiates vibrant dialogues with African Americans and black immigrants to discover more about race, our diverse identities, racism, migration and globalization. For more information visit www.baji.org.
The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) strives to be an anti-racist research and advocacy organization that advances lasting solutions to expand economic opportunity and well-being for all Georgians. We examine the state’s budget, taxes and public policies to provide thoughtful analysis and responsible solutions that address inequities in our state. We educate the public about complex issues confronting Georgia. We activate Georgians to call for policy solutions that put people first. Our aim is to inspire informed debate and decision-making, advancing our vision of fair and inclusive Georgia where everyone can prosper.
GA Familias Unidas or “GAFU”, is a mutual-aid volunteer network transitioning into full 501c3 status as a not-for-profit. Founded in July 2020, our core team has years of experience organizing in NE Georgia and among poultry workers specifically.
The Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC Action Fund works toward the day when the ideas of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. You can read more about us at www.splcenter.org.
Women Watch Afrika Inc. (WWA) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to promote the social and economic development and health equity of women and girls, and the acculturation of immigrants and refugees arriving to the United States from 23 African nations. In furtherance of its mission, Women Watch Afrika provides Social Services, Advocacy, Health and Legal Education, Know Your Rights workshops, Citizenship Preparation, Legal Services, Domestic Violence/FGM Prevention and Civic Engagement. WWA’s Civic Engagement program includes Voting and Civil Rights Awareness Trainings to engage refugee and immigrant communities in the metro-Atlanta area. WWA also participates in GOTV and election protection activities, which includes providing food and water to voters waiting in long lines, organizing transportation for voters to vote in person or by drop box, and providing assistance to voter casting a ballot in-person or by absentee who speak French, Swahili, Arabic, Yoruba, Ewe, Kotokolie, and Amharic, and to voters without the ability to read. You can read more about www.womenwatchafrika.org.
As an expert in this field, Women Watch Afrika provides trainings as a consultant on numerous issues. For more information on training, guidance, consulting services, and/or information on working with immigrant communities contact Glory Kilanko, Founder and Executive Director, Women Watch Afrika, Inc. at 404-759-6419 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Women Watch Afrika:
Women Watch Afrika is a grassroots, nonprofit, international, national, and local social justice organization focused on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, the promotion of social and economic development and health equity of women, and the acculturation of immigrants and refugees arriving to the United States from 23 African nations.
In line with its goal, Women Watch Afrika provides Social Services, Legal Services, Advocacy, Health Education, Legal Education, End Domestic Violence classes, Stop FGM/C workshops, Know Your Rights workshops, Citizenship Preparation, Civic Engagement; and Advocates against unjust, discriminatory laws that affect the community.
Website: https://womenwatchafrika.org/ Tel: 404-759-6419
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