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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, December 02, 2011

Alabama Revenue Department Says Counties Need Federal Verification to Deny Tag Renewals

The Birmingham News: The state revenue department has told county officials that they may not refuse to issue car tag renewals or business licenses to an immigrant unless they verify through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the person is unlawfully present in the United States.

The memo issued this week by state revenue Commissioner Julie Magee is an about-face from an earlier department memo that told county officials that under the state's immigration law, they could determine on their own whether an immigrant was legally present by using documents listed by the department.

Cooper Shattuck, Gov. Robert Bentley's legal adviser, said in a speech to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Wednesday that the revenue department's earlier memo was "inconsistent with the statute."

The immigration law says an "alien not lawfully present in the United States shall not enter into or attempt to enter into a business transaction" with the state, or a city, county or other political subdivision of the state.

But it also says an immigrant's lawful presence may be verified only by using the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or by other verification with that department.

"An alien may be denied the right to proceed with a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision only on the basis of a federal determination that the alien is unlawfully present," Magee's memo says.

"If you are unable to verify that an alien is unlawfully present in the United States through a determination by the SAVE Program or by other verification with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, then you should allow the alien to conduct the requested business transaction with your office," the memo states.

Shattuck in an interview confirmed that under the immigration law, a state, county or city official cannot "deny someone any decal, license (or) tag because of their alien status unless the federal government has verified that they are not here lawfully."

Magee's memo notes that the immigration law still requires people identifying themselves as U.S. citizens to demonstrate their citizenship. The memo says that can be done by showing a valid driver's license, passport or other document.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said he knew some counties were not registered to use the SAVE program, but that he didn't know how many.

Eric Pruitt, deputy director of the Jefferson County revenue department, said the county has applied to use the SAVE system but had not heard back from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as of Wednesday.

Pruitt said he had no idea how long it would take for Jefferson County to start using the SAVE program to verify whether a person is present in the United States legally. Until then, he said, county officials will not try to determine whether an immigrant is in the United States legally or illegally before issuing a car tag, hunting license or business license, or completing another business transaction.

"We'll go ahead and issue you a car tag . . . or whatever else it is you want," Pruitt said.

He added that county officials still will require immigrants to prove that they are who they say they are before completing a transaction.

Shattuck in his speech said the immigration law in places is vague and needs better definitions.

For instance, he said the term "business transaction" isn't defined, and Shattuck questioned whether the law's ban on unauthorized immigrants entering into business transactions with the state, a county or a city really was meant to prohibit someone from paying for garbage service.

"We meant to address the employability of these folks, not whether they get garbage service," he said.

Shattuck noted that section 22 of the immigration law gives Spencer Collier, the director of the state Department of Homeland Security, the "authority to promulgate rules for the enforcement of this act."

Shattuck said he expects Collier eventually to propose rules to clearly define terms in the law, such as "business transaction" and "public benefits."

"This is an act that needs some clarification. This is an act that needs some simplification," Shattuck said.

John Schremser, a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security, said Collier about a month ago invited about 15 people, including state officials and representatives for county and city governments, to discuss making rules to clarify some of the language in the immigration law. He said the group could complete a first draft of its proposed rules by Dec. 7.

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