- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Nearly 10,900 immigrants granted temporary permission to remain in the U.S. under a federal policy aimed at people brought to the country illegally as children have applied for Georgia driver’s licenses or permits since the policy took effect, state data shows.

President Barack Obama in 2012 created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to allow thousands of young people in the country illegally to stay in the U.S. for up to two years and get a work permit.

Georgia Department of Driver Services spokeswoman Susan Sports said Wednesday that 10,882 beneficiaries of the program have applied for Georgia driver’s licenses since it took effect in August 2012. It was not clear how many of those applications were successful, Sports said.

By December, 16,302 young immigrants living in Georgia had been approved for deferred action status under the Obama administration program, according to data on the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

People living in the country illegally are not eligible to receive driver’s licenses in Georgia. But Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wrote in a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal the month the policy took effect that “state law recognizes the approval of deferred action status as a basis for issuing a temporary driver’s license.”

A bill pending before the Georgia Legislature and sponsored by state Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, would prohibit people with deferred action status from getting a Georgia driver’s license. A Senate committee has approved that bill, but it has not yet come up for a vote before the full Senate.

The young people who were in the country without authorization and who qualified for the program created by the 2012 Obama administration policy are not the only ones eligible for deferred action on their immigration cases. Federal immigration authorities can also grant deferred action status at their discretion.

A separate Senate resolution sponsored by state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, would propose a constitutional amendment to declare English as the official language of the state of Georgia and would require driver’s license exams to be given only in English. Currently, the on-the-road driving test and the signs section of the written test are conducted in English only, but the written road rules section is offered in English and 11 other languages.

If the resolution gets a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would be on the ballot for voters to consider.

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