August 12, 2016

Transcript: Georgia Department of Drivers Services Commissioner Bert Brantley on the Tim Bryant radio show (WAGU-AM), August 11, 2016 – DDS issues drivers licenses to illegal illegal aliens under deportation orders

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end of cue in…: Jennifer Pointer.

Voice over, Sen Josh McKoon: Every illegal alien who has received deferred action, they’ve all been given federal work permits, they’ve all been given social security numbers–

Tim Bryant: And now they might get driver’s licenses. Josh McKoon there, Columbus state senator, Republican who joined us on Wednesday. We approach 9:06 on classics of the day.

The concern is just that. Uh, settlement of a lawsuit that will make it much easier for undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses in Georgia. Bert Brantley, now the head of the Georgia Department of Driver Services, or as Jennifer Pointer and I call it, the DMV. Bert Brantley, thanks for your time this morning.

Jennifer Pointer: (laughs)

Bert Brantley: (laughs) Thanks Tim, thanks Jennifer. Good to be with you.

Jennifer: Yeah, yeah.

Tim:[00:01:00] All right, I want to look at this from 30,000 feet and then put you on the ground and then let you fill in the blanks here. But what we had earlier this week, a settlement of a lawsuit was filed by six, I believe it was, undocumented immigrants, illegal aliens. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta handling the lawsuit. Their allegation, their claim, was that they were denied Georgia driver’s license they should have been afforded by virtue of some federal law. Settlement of the lawsuit, as I understand it means, in addition to the state picking up the legal expenses for the Southern Poverty Law Center, $30,000, $35,000. These folks are gonna get their driver’s licenses.

Now you’re saying as I understand uh, in some of the quoting that you’ve been doing, you have said this was a policy we were putting in place anyway, we just expedite this to make the lawsuit go away.

Bert Brantley:[00:02:00] Right, so there was uh … when these folks were being denied, uh, driver’s license based on our interpretation of uh, the federal and state uh, statutes, and so the number of lawsuits that had been filed at all different levels by a number of different defendants, uh, or plaintiffs, I’m sorry, uh, in the cases and so there were two federal, uh, Fulton county Superior Court rulings earlier this spring that both ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. And ordered us to issue driver’s licenses to the plaintiffs in those cases. And so in order to meet those rulings, uh, we were in the process of imput, of implementing a policy, uh, that would, uh, that would license uh, these, these plaintiffs and all those that are in the same situation.

And so right behind that, this federal lawsuit came with these six, uh, individuals that had been denied under the previous, uh, policy. Uh, and um, and so they were in the same situation as the, as the Fulton County Superior Court rulings had already ruled on. So it didn’t make any sense for us to fight a lawsuit when we had already uh, lost the lawsuit and the federal judge was gonna rely on uh, the reasoning, uh, most likely from that, from that lawsuit.

So the settlement today, or this week that was announced uh, really didn’t change anything. Uh, it, it was just a really what I would say an administrative uh, call on our part and the Attorney General’s part to uh, to get rid of the lawsuit that had already been determined, uh, that these six, uh, individuals were eligible based on the previous court ruling uh, from the spring.

Tim:Okay, so Georgia’s options at that [crosstalk 00:03:00] point as I understand it, again Bert Brantley, the Department of Driver Services. Georgia’s options at that point were to, again, to settle the suit or to dig in our heels, “Listen, we, we issue the driver’s licenses around here, we decide what the parameters are,” to fight that fight and ultimately lose.

Bert Brantley: Right. And pay uh, a large sum. Uh, there are several state agencies that have been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, uh, in similar cases that, that have lost. And so, you know again, in consulting with the Attorney General’s office, we had to make a decision uh, did this make sense to, uh, to go forward and potentially uh, extend uh, the state’s risk, uh, in, in legal fees uh, and it really, you know, again the reasoning in the Fulton County lawsuits, we, we and the Attorney General’s office really felt like uh, it was gonna hold in the, in the federal lawsuit uh, as well.

[00:04:00] So, so again, the settlement didn’t change anything, it didn’t um … it, we, we were in the process of meeting the Superior Court rulings that had come down this spring uh, and uh, and so, it was honestly a little bit of surprise that it’s gotten this much attention to me because you know, we, we did some press uh, on the, the rulings back in the spring uh, and, because people were, were interested. And obviously it’s a, this is an important topic of who gets licensed and, and who doesn’t.

And so the settlement really is, it’s about um, you know, this particular, uh, group of people but, but, but really, it’s about uh, meeting this, these ruling from uh, from the spring.

Jennifer: So um … Bert, what would you say to people um, who are against this, who are critics of giving licenses to illegal immigrants?

Bert Brantley: Yeah, I completely understand that, that point of view uh–

Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bert Brantley:[00:05:00] –and you know, from a … we are a implementer, we’re the agency that implements the rules uh, and regs that are passed by federal uh, Congress and, and our state legislature and then obviously the courts as they interpret those rules as well. So I completely understand that, that argument uh, and, and that point of view and uh, but, you know, as an agency, we have to follow uh, what we interpret the rules to be and certainly what court rulings are out there as well.

I think there’s arguments on both sides. Frankly, I’ve heard, you know, heard from all, all sides on this and–

Jennifer: Right.

Bert Brantley: –uh, and it’s up to the individual person I think to determine where they fall on, whether it’s a benefit to have them–

Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bert Brantley: –in the system, have them licensed, have their, their ability to go get insurance and, and all those arguments for and then all the arguments against, uh, where you got people who have, you know, overstayed their, uh, their visas uh, or their, you know, the immigration documents.

One key point I think is really important to note on this. Uh, the, the federal work permit that all of these folks have, they have to present a federal work permit and an application for permanent status. So–

Jennifer: [crosstalk 00:05:42] Oh, okay. That is new.

Bert Brantley: –they’re federally able to work uh, and then they also have applied for permanent status and they’re waiting on that, that case to be … their situation to be resolved.

Tim:[00:06:00] Yeah but one of the concerns that people have, Bert Brantley, uh and the folks we talked with yesterday uh, Senator Josh McKoon among them, they’re concerned about the documentation, with the very things that you just outlined there. What do they have to show, I mean, I know what I have to show to get my driver’s license, uh, what do they have to do?

Bert Brantley: Yeah, so they have to show a, a what is called an employment authorization document, a EAD, which is a federal work permit essentially. So they’ve gotten that issued by, by the federal government to work. They have a social security number uh, as well and then they also have to show proof that they have applied for permanent status and are waiting on that, uh, that application to be, to be resolved. Uh, and so their status is only good for, in most cases a year, so these folks have to come in every year or every two years, whatever, however long their, their status is, uh, and, and renew their license. Unlike you and I, they come in every eight years, uh, they have to come in, they have to bring all that documentation each time they come in because the license is only good until, uh, their documents are good for.

[00:07:00] Uh, and so um, so again, that’s the … you know, based on the court rulings, that’s … uh, the way that um, that we’re, that we are now, there could be future court rulings or future laws. I mean all this stuff changes pretty dramatically but I just want to make sure everybody understands, I mean all of these folks, uh, who are licensed … and again, you’re talking about a couple thousand out of the two million licenses we issue a year, all these folks have a federal work permit, and employment authorization document and a pending application for permanent status and they’re just, uh, waiting, again, final disposition.

If they’re awarded permanent status, of course they have a green card then and they can get a license, uh, and if they’re not awarded, uh, status, then they can no longer be licensed.

Jennifer: So if they’re not awarded the status, their license will be taken from them?

Bert Brantley: Well, and again, they’re only good for a year–

Jennifer: Right.

Bert Brantley: –uh, or two, and so, yeah they … we, we, we won’t go out to their address and, and (laughs)–

Jennifer: (laughs)

Bert Brantley: –seize their license, but they can’t come back in. They can’t get it renewed–

Jennifer: Sure.

Bert Brantley: –so they would have an expired license at that point.

Tim: Bert Brantley with us. Another couple of minutes here. The Department of Driver Services itself, and Jennifer and I were joking yesterday, why don’t we [crosstalk 00:07:51] just call it the DMV–

Jennifer: (laughs)

Tim:[00:08:00] –well the obvious answer there is the DMV deals with cars, you people deal with people. And that’s fine, and that’s good. You were around, uh, when, when Sonny Perdue kind of made that transition. We all remember, most of us, those of us old enough to remember, just how hideous it used to be at the DMV. I mean–

Jennifer: Oh. Ohhh.

Tim: –listen, fair is fair, I can criticize government with the best of them, but it’s gotten a lot better when it comes to getting a driver’s license in Georgia.

Bert Brantley: Yeah. Thanks Tim, I appreciate you saying that.

Jennifer: It has gotten better, yeah.

Bert Brantley: First of all, you guys have an awesome center in Athens. Huge Bulldog fans there. Uh, Brenda is the manager out there, please everybody go see her. Uh, and if you’re a football player and you’re listening, please go get your license in [crosstalk 00:08:26]

Tim: (laughs)

Jennifer: (laughs)

Bert Brantley:[00:09:00] [inaudible 00:09:10] driving without a license. But, yeah, we really have made a lot of investment. The state invested in people and technology, uh, and you know, our goal is for 95% of the people around the state to wait less than 30 minutes. Uh, and uh, and so we hit that and uh … so there are times where, you know, we get busy, particularly on Tuesdays, uh, but uh, for the most part, if you’re coming in to a, a, a DDS center to get your driver’s license renewed, you’re gonna be in and out of there, uh, in 30 minutes and uh, I think … I’m really proud of it. I mean I’ve only been here since March, but as you said, we were around with Governor Perdue when we, uh, started this. Governor Deal has continued to put an emphasis on it. It’s the one thing that every single person in the state has to come and do and we should do that well. Uh, and so we’re really proud of our performance, and, but always striving to get better as well–

Tim: Right.

Jennifer: Right.

Bert Brantley: –and, uh, again, you guys have a great center out there, really uh, really proud of the Athens center and all of our centers around, around the state but we’re proud of the job we’re doing.

Jennifer: Yeah, I have a personal anecdote really quick about that.

I actually had to get my license renewed because my birthday was in February and it had expired. And so I went to the one out here in Athens and I was like, “Oh my gosh,” you know, because it’s been forever (laughs) since I’ve been to the DMV and I’m like, “I’m gonna be here for hours.”

I was in and out in less than five minutes.

Tim: Hmmm.

Bert Brantley: That’s awesome.

Jennifer: Literally. I, it was a awesome, it was amazing. I was telling everyone about it because I was like, “Oh my God, this just happened to me.”

And, and it wasn’t … the, it was empty, it was, you know, it was kinda crowded actually, people were, you know, there was a good bit of people in there and yet I was in and out in, you know, about five minutes time and I was like, “That was quick, that was great,” so–

Bert Brantley:
And I’ve got even better news for you. On the top right of your license, you’ll see a gold star. You had to bring in all your documents, uh, you’ll be able to renew once online.

Tim: Oh!

Jennifer: Ohhh!

Bert Brantley: And so the next time that your renewal is up, if you have that gold star, you can go online, create a, a DDS account uh, and renew online and don’t even have to come back to the center.

Jennifer: I like that.

Tim: Yeah.

Bert Brantley: So that’s part of this, the Real ID and, and uh, and making sure that we’re, uh, that we’re doing all the things we need to do and, and document those that are, uh, that are here, uh, and, and are eligible for licenses but then also making it customer friendly by, by not making you come back. You can go 16 years without coming into the li–

Tim: Wow.

Bert Brantley: –back to the center–

Jennifer: [crosstalk 00:10:33] That’s amazing.

Bert Brantley: –if you have an eight year license renewed once.

Tim: Good stuff. Bert Brantley, the Department of Driver Services Commissioner there. Thanks for your time this morning.

Jennifer: Yeah, thank you so much.

Bert Brantley: Thanks Tim, thanks Jennifer.