Immigration law impacts county

A number of procedures affecting citizenship identification mandated in the state’s new immigration law will now go into effect immediately, following a delay until Sept. 28 for a federal judge to rule on whether to stay them indefinitely. Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled last week, in effect permitting much of the law to go into effect and blocking only selected provisions.

One provision of the law requires citizens to prove their citizenship by showing identification verifying their status in a number of transactions at the county courthouse, including automobile license tag purchase and renewal. Either of two forms of identification will be accepted under the new law: either a valid Alabama driver’s license or a valid Alabama nondriver ID card issued by the Department of Public Safety.

That requirement affects tag purchases or renewals done at the courthouse revenue office, as well as online and mail-in tag renewals.

Revenue Commissioner Chris Green said the only change has been that physical presentation of licenses is no longer required as long as the resident can supply his/her proper driver’s license number and expiration date. A new computer system will provide online verification using only the number and expiration date. Titles showing two or more parties will require identification for all shown.

Mobile home registration, scheduled for October and November, is handled similarly to automobile tag renewal, he said.

Also affected are business license purchases and renewals and boat registrations under the county probate office. Business license renewals are handled in October. Boat registrations are handled in the same month as a person’s car-tag renewals.

Operations of the sheriff’s department may also be profoundly affected by the provision allowing law enforcement officers to verify citizenship status in connection with any arrest or traffic stop. That provision was cleared to go forward by the judge’s ruling last week.

Blount County Sheriff Loyd Arrington said the law enforcement community awaits instructions and procedures from the attorney general on exactly how to implement that part of the law.

“Until we get word from the attorney general as to how to handle enforcement, we’ll continue to operate on a business-asusual basis here,” he said.

Schools are required by law to determine the citizenship status of all students registering after the federal court’s decision. That has been interpreted to mean the new requirements went into effect as of Sept. 29.

Students registering to attend school are required to present “proper documentation” – defined as a birth certificate or valid immigration papers – to register. If they don’t have documentation at time of registration, they are allowed 30 days to produce it. If at the end of that period, they are still unable to produce proper documentation, then they are coded either “yes” or “no” by student ID number and that information is forwarded to the state Department of Education. No further action is required by the school system. The children are allowed to continue in school.

Blount County Board of Education Supt. Jim Carr said that, so far, it is difficult to gauge what the ultimate impact will be. He said an unusual number of Hispanic students were reported absent from county schools on Monday Oct. 1. Over 167 were absent for all schools that day, with over a third of them being at Southeastern. Only 11 of the students were absent Tuesday at all schools. He said a total of nine students have withdrawn from county schools since the law went into effect last week.

Carr said it will take a few more days to determine how many of the Monday absentees may become withdrawals. There have been no new registrations since the reporting requirements went into effect last week and few are anticipated this far into the school year, he said.

“We’ll have a principal’s meeting Thursday this week. Maybe by then we’ll be able to better assess what’s happening with withdrawals,” Carr said.

Scott Coefield, Supt. of Oneonta City Schools, said on Monday of this week 76 out of 323 Hispanic students were absent. That amounts to about 5 percent of the school student population. Coefield agreed it is unclear as yet how many of the absences may prove to be withdrawals.

“If we were to lose 76 kids, that would affect our funding. That’s worth about three or four teacher units, and we’d lose that much. Of course, we would have that many fewer kids to teach so costs would be reduced by that much, but it could affect teacher employment.”

Oneonta has had no new registrations since last week. They would follow the same procedures as the county system for processing students who register from now on.