There have been no protests on the steps of the Georgia Capitol like those that greeted the state's sweeping immigration legislation last year. But quietly, and in piecemeal fashion, state lawmakers have been working around the edges to again crack down on those in the country illegally.
Georgia made international headlines last spring when it passed some of the toughest laws in the U.S. targeting illegal immigrants within its borders. Those included provisions to sanction employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and deny some state services - like nonemergency medical care and unemployment checks - to adults who can't verify that they're in the country legally.
A flurry of smaller proposals have been moving through the state Legislature this year, including several that would make it tougher for illegal immigrants to drive in Georgia. Many never mention the words "illegal immigrants," but they stand to be affected most by the changes.
"This is an issue that I hear from my constituents all the time about," said state Rep. Timothy Bearden, a Republican from Villa Rica, who wants to require all state forms to be in English only. "The federal government has been derelict in their duty, and until they do something I guess it's going to be left up to us here in the states."
State Sen. Chip Rogers was the author of last year's Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act. Most provisions of that law aren't set to take effect until July, and Rogers said he doesn't foresee another comprehensive immigration bill until the effects of that legislation can be judged.
"But there is still room to do other things," said the Republican from Woodstock, a north Atlanta suburb.
This past week a proposal by Rogers coasted through the state Senate that would require Georgians to obtain a valid state driver's license before they can get their car licensed. To get a Georgia driver's license, a resident must already verify that they are in the country legally.
Rogers portrayed it as a public safety measure but acknowledged that it would make it harder for those in the country illegally to get behind the wheel because their vehicles wouldn't have valid plates and would be easy for law enforcement to spot and stop.
The measure passed unanimously without debate. It moves to the House, which like the state Senate is controlled by Republicans.
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