Immigration law creates massive licensing backlog - CBS46 News

Immigration law creates massive licensing backlog

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Those applying for or renewing professional licenses can expect to wait weeks, even months, to receive them.

A 2011 immigration law requires those working in approximately 200 professions to verify that they are U.S. citizens. 

That includes doctors, nurses and contractors. They must verify their citizenship every time they renew.

"Just the whole part of the bill has caused us a tremendous amount of work and the problem is we have no new resources for that work, plus we've continued to take budget cuts," said Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Kemp said since 2008, his staff has been reduced by 40 percent and that has made keeping up with applications even more difficult.

The agency received 458,000 calls between July 2011 and June 2012. About one-quarter of them were never answered.

"Many people just hang up out of sheer frustration," Kemp said.

Immigration activist D.A. King helped author the immigration bill. He tried but failed to have it changed in the last legislative session.

"After it was passed, we realized there was oversight," King told CBS Atlanta News. "We should require that U.S. citizens only have to prove that citizenship once in each different agency."

King and others said they will again introduce legislation to make citizen verification a one-time deal for licensed professionals.

"This is not pro-immigration versus anti," said Kemp. "This is an issue about helping working Georgians, making Georgia be more competitive in the future and getting our folks into the workforce."

King said he is now drumming up support to change the legislation.

"Nobody's more frustrated than me," said King. "We tried to fix this before anybody even knew about it. We were thwarted by the governor and the speaker of the house."

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