Immigration law threatens tag renewals

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

If today were Sept. 1, the Pike County Probate Judge’s Office would have to temporarily suspend the mail option renewal of vehicle tags.

Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen said his office was notified on Aug.1 to prepare for a mandate included in the state’s new immigration law that will force all residents to prove citizenship before buying tags or renewing licenses beginning Sept. 1, 2011.

“To prove citizenship, residents can show a valid driver’s license, passport or Social Security card,” Allen said. “Our office will be required to make a copy of each document provided and keep a file with that information.”

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What this mandate means is the residents can no longer renew vehicle tags on line or by mail.

However, Allen said that the Pike County Probate Office doesn’t offer the online option.

“We began offering the mail option renewal in March 2010 and were moving toward online renewal before this mandate,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and other organizations are suing the state to block the law.

Alabama’s immigration law mandates that residents will have to demonstrate United States citizenship when applying for or renewing a motor vehicle license plate, applying for or renewing a driver’s license or non-driver identification card or applying for or renewing a business license. Citizenship must be shown by presenting one of those documents.

Because the county’s mail option renewal is relatively new, Allen said only about 5 percent of the 36,000 to 38,000 annual tag renewals are through mail.

“As more people were becoming aware of the mail option renewal the percentage was rising,” Allen said.

If the state’s immigration law goes into effect as written, Allen said the Probate Office will temporarily suspend the mail option renewal.

Allen said that he supports the spirit of the law and he is committed to running the Pike County Probate Judge Office in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

“The Legislature makes the laws and the Probate Office follows them,” he said.

“What this mandate will mean to Pike County residents is that there will probably be longer lines because of the suspension of mail order renewal. It will also take us a little longer to get the paperwork done because it will require a few more steps.

“But, we will continue to work hard and run this office in the best and most efficient way possible.”

According to the Associated Press, Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Orrick told U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn that sections of Alabama’s law should be blocked because they conflict with federal law.

The law allows police officers, in conducting routine traffic stops, to arrest those they suspect of being illegal immigrants.

Other provisions make it a crime to transport or provide shelter to an illegal immigrant. It also requires schools to report the immigration status of students.