News & Politics

The Cruelest Republican in Georgia

Senator Josh McKoon has sponsored an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill. Now he wants to strip battered women immigrants of drivers licenses.

Photo Credit: Josh McKoon's Facebook page

In response to President Obama's executive action preventing deportation of up to five million undocumented immigrants, the right wing has said some really crazy things, ranging from comparing the president to a dictator to declaring that there will be riots in the streets. But one Georgia Republican decided he needed to put this hostile rhetoric into action. He introduced the first pre-filed bill of the 2015 Georgia State Senate session, which would ban drivers licenses for individuals who have work permits and deferrals from deportation.

It's notable that McKoon's bill is a response to Obama's action but is not limited to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has been much-debated. The bill applies to all unauthorized immigrants who have received federal shielding from deportation, meaning that it would apply, for instance, to battered immigrant women granted rights under the Violence Against Women Act.

McKoon defended his bill to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by saying that undocumented immigrants have attempted to vote in North Carolina, and that denying them drivers licenses would be a way to protect voter integrity (a strange case of a Republican admitting the voter ID system is problematic, but only for undocumented immigrants).

The bill would also require noncitizens applying for drivers licenses to be fingerprinted or have some other “biological characteristics” recorded (a similar measure by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer was ruled unconstitutional).

But McKoon isn't satisfied with pushing legislation that denies immigrants' rights and imperils Georgia drivers; he is returning to a pet cause of his from last session. He plans to reintroduce a “religious freedom” bill that would “open the door to discrimination” against LGBT individuals by businesses, in the words of the highly conservative Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

In a state with a booming Latino population and increasing support for LGBT rights, McKoon may not win a whole lot of friends with this sort of legislation. But he may win the title of Georgia's meanest Republican. 

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