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Law forces refugees to cough up cash

ID requires yearly renewal

On June 28, Abdikafi Yusuf's brother and father, refugees from Somalia, paid $20 and exited the Department of Driver Services center with an identification card valid for five years.

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Two weeks later, Abdikafi, 25, joined his family in Atlanta and went through the same routine. But he paid $20 and received a Georgia ID valid for only 12 months. "I have to go back next year again," Abdikafi says. "If I don't have a car, I will have to pay for a taxi and the ID, and it costs a lot of money. It's unfair."

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On July 1, a new law went into effect that issues temporary IDs to non-citizens for only one year. The law creates a problem for Georgia's 75,000 refugees, who are granted indefinite legal residence in the United States.

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"Georgia went overboard with this law," says Ellen Beattie, regional director of the International Rescue Committee. "It places negative consequences on completely legal immigrants."

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On top of a financial burden, the new law could affect refugees' abilities to find jobs. Because the IDs mark them as "temporary," there is fear that employers might be reluctant to hire a refugee.

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During a late-night session toward the end of the 2005 General Assembly, Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, proposed the one-year rule to make sure a person is here legally. He says asking someone to go back and reapply each year isn't unreasonable. "I don't think it's too harsh," he says.



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