Because of his brown skin, Ani Joshi says he now carries his U.S. passport even when traveling inside the country. But he wasn’t always a citizen. The IT infrastructure services professional has a Georgia driver’s license which says “Limited Term” because his Green Card was valid till 2018. It still says that. Which may explain why he was asked for a second ID when he returned from Florida to Georgia a couple months ago by a TSA (Transportation Safety Authority) official. That was even before President Donald Trump was sworn into office but when an underlying anti-immigrant mood among many Americans was already simmering.
Like on Capitol Hill where some Republican Senators have introduced legislation to overhaul the legal immigration system, some state-level lawmakers are pushing through legislation that could affect the lives of permanent residents negatively – ranging from driver’s licenses to job opportunities, leaving some Indian-origin residents and citizens feeling vulnerable.
The Colorado State Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill Feb. 6, that would require law enforcement officials to be U.S. citizens, closing the door to Green Card holders.
The measure, SB 120, allows current permanent residents employed in law enforcement to continue but requires them to eventually become citizens.
The bill heads to the full state Senate where Republicans have a one-vote majority over the Democrats.
The measure was opposed by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police which contended diversity was an asset to the force. Sheriffs’ County offices and Democrats in the Committee also opposed it on the same grounds.
However, state Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, who sponsored SB 120, warned that noncitizens working in law enforcement, “have authority that you and I will never have,” Aspen Public Radio reported. “I don’t need to remind anyone in this room that use and authority and discretion, when improperly used, and it is a rare thing, but when it is so, people are damaged. People are deprived of life, liberty and property.” He expressed worry on where the loyalty of legal residents lay.
In Georgia, the House of Representatives Motor Vehicles Committee passed a bill Feb. 7, that will require drivers licenses issued to Green Card holders to identify them as “Noncitizen.” The amendment to that effect was sponsored by among others, Republican state Reps. Alan Powell and Amy Carter, and was attached to House Bill 136 providing guidance to the Department of Drivers Licenses.
Rep. Powell said putting “Noncitizen” on the drivers license could prevent Green Card holders/permanent residents from registering to vote or take advantage illegally of benefits meant for citizens only, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
“Getting the Green Card is already such a difficult process. If this new rule becomes law, it will create more division,” Joshi said. “The term ‘Noncitizen’ in your driver’s license could be misinterpreted by any police officer or TSA officer,” Joshi said, adding, “Because my skin in brown, I now carry my U.S. passport even for domestic travel.”
(This post was revised and updated on 2/9/2017)