New immigration law will have local effects

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2011

Local residents can expect to feel some effect from the state’s new immigration law, parts of which became effective yesterday.

After a federal judge upheld most of the controversial law on Wednesday, police can question those suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said.

Those two key points in the state’s new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday.

The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately, and now, business owners and government officials are now tasked with not only complying with, but also enforcing, the law, which does the following:

• Allows discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants.

• Forbids businesses from taking tax deductions for wages paid to workers who are in the country illegally.

• Bars drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers.

• Makes federal verification the only way in court to determine if someone is here legally.

What that means on a local level

Since the judge also upheld a section that requires state and local law enforcement officials to try to verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests, if “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally, it means an added workload for law enforcement, the probate office, the local driver’s licenses office and many others.

At the Covington County Probate Office, Probate Judge Ben Bowden said with the new law in effect, people must now show proper identification when registering a vehicle or renewing a tag.

He said the new driver’s license verification system will help in some ways, “but I want our customers to please remember that proof of lawful presence, which is usually an Alabama Driver’s License, will be required to be shown at the time of registration/renewal.

“I anticipate that the new verification system will be helpful in situations where more than one owner appears on the registration and that owner is unavailable at renewal time,” he said. “If we have a name, driver’s license number and its expiration date, we can verify a driver’s license and proceed with renewal. The new verification system will also help with on-line renewals.”

Bowden said the most difficult situations will arise with registrations in more than one name.

“If you’re in this situation, please secure all information necessary to renew such as a photocopy of the driver’s license or name, driver’s license number and its expiration date from each owner listed on the registration prior to renewal,” he said.

“It is going to be confusing at first,” he said.

Bowden offered some tips to try when renewing or registering a vehicle:

• Try mail in renewal or on-line at;

• If you come to the office, have your driver’s license ready and a photocopy of the driver’s license of any joint owner of the vehicle; and

• Anticipate long lines and don’t wait until the last minute.

Bowden said an email address has been set up so that a customer who lacks the proper documentation can email those items later if that is more convenient.

“Remember, mail-in and online renewals require photos or photocopies of the proper documentation during the renewal process,” he said.

Those with questions can call 428-2510.

The agriculture community will also be greatly impacted.

State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan announced Thursday his office will launch a web seminar series on Oct. 14 to help area farmers “dig through” the new law.

“Now that there is a ruling from the federal district court, we are moving forward to help farmers and agribusinesses understand their role and responsibilities in complying with the immigration law,” McMillan said. “This law contains many provisions with stiff fines and penalties. It is critical for farmers and agribusinesses to understand fully how this law applies to them.”

The three-part series will be held at the Extension Office, located across from the county health department, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. The seminar will talk about “do’s and don’ts for employers.”