NORCROSS, Ga. — Lindsay Mataya says immigration was never something she thought of until she and her husband went to get apply for Georgia driver's licenses, and only he walked away with one in hand.
"I had actually brought every single government-issued document that I own," Mataya told 11Alive.
"I had my photo taken, I took the eye exam, so I had assumed that everything was going really well, and that I'd be walking out with a driver's license," she said.
Mataya and her husband had just moved from Virginia to Dunwoody, Georgia.
One of the first things they did after their move, was to apply for a Georgia driver's license in Norcross.
"The guy behind the counter made copies of all of my documentation, and he handed them back to me. He said, 'Your immigration status can not be verified today,'" Mataya said.
"I mean, this is my home to me ... I don't think of this country as anything but home -- so, to be treated as though that I don't belong here, it was just, quite shocking," she said.
Mataya was adopted from South Korea when she was a baby by U.S. parents. She was naturalized as a U.S. citizen when she was 7 years old.
She has a Virginia Driver's License, she's a registered voter, she has a social security card and a certificate of naturalization.
She says she provided all of those original documents as required by the Georgia Department of Driver Services, and still was told they could not verify her immigration status.
Georgia DDS uses a federal database through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) known as SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements), which verifies immigration documents such as a certificate of naturalization.
The letter she was presented with says, in part, "your driver's license, permit or identification card cannot be issued at this time because USCIS could not confirm your immigration status. You will be contacted within five business days by a representative of DDA regarding the status of your case."
Mataya said that she has been a citizen of the United States for more than 30 years, and this is the first time her immigration status has been placed into question.
"I've just grown up my whole life thinking of myself as every other American in this country, and thinking of myself as no different, and then to have that questioned, really cut me very deeply," she said.
In a statement to 11Alive, Georgia DDS said, in part, "DDS is required to verify each document presented for issuance for each and every customer, and in addition, SAVE must be cleared. Many times, SAVE is cleared with 2 days, but can take as many as 30 days. SAVE is a Federal USCIS database, and DDS does not control how long the query takes. Be assured that our team members are anxious to notify all customers as soon as they are able to return for license issuance as we know how extremely important having a valid license or ID is. We apologize for your viewer's confusion with our process and will be reiterating to team members how important it is to communicate the process and next steps when someone is not issued immediately."
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