How Georgia’s Immigration Law Traps Nurses In A Paperwork Nightmare

Georgia’s harmful immigration law has been hurting the state’s farmers since it went into effect a year ago. Without enough workers to harvest, farm owners watched thousands of dollars’ worth of crops rot in their fields. Some farms still faced worker shortages this year. And, as it turns out, farmers aren’t the only ones being hurt by this law.

The immigration law also requires that anyone in Georgia who is applying for or renewing a professional license to prove they are in the U.S. legally. The massive amount of paper work is leading to delays that last weeks or months instead of days, according to the New York Times:

That means people who used to renew online must now find and send in what the state deems a secure and verifiable document: a copy of a driver’s license, a passport, a green card or other government-issued ID.

The fact of the matter is that in our agency we’ve taken a streamlined process we’ve had in place and made it more bureaucratic,” said Brian Kemp, the secretary of state. […]

One would think that simply checking a piece of identification would not gum up the works, but the state licenses 475,000 people over all. Although not all of them renew at the same time, the new step requires hand-checking each application for the correct documents. Before, much of the process was automated.

And despite efforts by the state’s professional boards to educate people about the new requirements, more than 8,300 applications have arrived without proof of citizenship or legal residency so far this year. Each of those applicants had to be contacted and asked to provide the correct documents.

In addition to the backlog of paperwork, budget cuts have reduced the number of people working in the licensing division by 30 percent since 2008. Workers in the office can only answer about three-quarters of the 459,000 calls they receive with questions about the new requirements.


Alabama officials are still sorting out how to enforce a similar provision from its immigration law. Officials have asked the federal government to let the state use the Systemic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to check whether or not professional license applicants are legally in the U.S., but federal officials have not said if the state can use the database. Meanwhile, Kemp plans to ask the legislature to change Georgia’s immigration law so that it only applies to first-time applicants.