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Group Of Immigrants Sues Ga. Department of Driver Services

A group of immigrants is suing the state Department of Driver Services, claiming the agency discriminated against them by denying them driver's licenses.
A group of immigrants is suing the state Department of Driver Services, claiming the agency discriminated against them by denying them driver's licenses.
Credit Michell Elloy / WABE
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A group of immigrants is suing the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services, saying the agency discriminated against them by denying them licenses.

The six plaintiffs are all immigrants waiting for their green cards, according to the lawsuit that was filed this week. According to the suit, they say the department illegally denied them licenses based on their not being able to show a history of being in the country lawfully in the past.

Attorney Kristi Graunke, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center who’s representing the plaintiffs along with Atlanta immigration lawyer Justin Chaney, said the agency’s practice  is violating federal law.

“We found that a number of people who are actually qualified for, eligible for driver’s licenses under federal and state law are being denied them,” she said.

Some of the plaintiffs have had licenses previously, but were denied them when they tried to renew their licenses under a new policy, the lawsuit said.

Graunke said under a federal law, the plaintiffs have lawful status for the purposes of getting their driver’s licenses, and have been authorized by the federal government to work. She said some of the plaintiffs have had gotten licenses based on their work authorization previously, but were denied them when they tried to renew their licenses.

“When people are restricted from driving, this causes major upheavals for their family lives, for their ability to maintain employment,” she said.

Nil Govind Das, a plaintiff from India who lives in Atlanta, applied for a green card after he married a U.S. citizen, according to the lawsuit. When he went to renew his license this past year, he was denied, he said.

It caused a lot of difficulty for me,” Das said through an interpreter. “I’m unable to have any transportation so I’m not able to drive myself anywhere. I cannot go to work; my wife has to drive me everywhere.” 

He said it’s also affected his ability to serve at his local Temple. 

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services said the agency does not comment on pending cases. She said, by email, the agency “has not changed the non-citizen issuance and renewal policy which is set forth in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) at Section 375-3-1-.02. “

The state Attorney General’s office also had no comment on the litigation.

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