Officials at some local tag offices say customers won’t be able to renew tags online when the law, which is now being challenged in court, goes into effect Oct. 1. Most local tag offices haven’t decided whether to continue registration by mail.
“If the law goes into effect, longer lines are unavoidable,” said Susan Flowers, revenue commissioner for Talladega County.
In June, the Alabama Legislature passed a sweeping immigration reform law that would allow police officers to check the immigration status of people pulled over for traffic stops, require schools to find out the immigration status of children and demand that employers use the federal E-Verify system to determine the immigration status of all employees.
Proponents of the bill say it puts teeth in immigration policy that the federal government has failed to enforce. Opponents say the law could lead to racial profiling and would criminalize the efforts of churches to help immigrants. Civil rights and religious groups have sued to overturn the law, and a federal judge ruled to block its implementation until at least Sept. 30.
One provision in the law requires residents to provide proof of legal residency before they get license plates for a car. That poses a problem for most county car tag offices, which offer tag renewals online or by mail to save customers time.
Flowers said that if the law goes into effect Oct. 1, Talladega County’s online registration would stop immediately.
“There’s no way to verify your residency status online, so that will have to go,” she said.
Mail registrations would continue, Flowers said, but customers could expect longer turnaround times, and a longer wait if they apply in person.
The reason, county officials say, is that the law would require county offi-ces to keep copies of every applicant’s proof of citizenship. Under the law, issuing a car tag to an illegal immigrant is a felony and residents can sue if they believe a government agency isn’t enforcing the law.
Officials in several counties said those requirements would likely increase the time to process applications.
“I’m not going to jail for anybody, I don’t care who you are” said April Brown, chief clerk of the probate office in Cleburne County.
Brown said Cleburne would continue to register by mail, though the process could take more time than in the past.
Staff members at the license commissioner’s office of Calhoun County said registration by mail would end if the law went into effect. License Commissioner Barry Robertson was in Montgomery Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Officials in Randolph and Clay counties said they had yet to make a decision on registration by mail and online.
“We’re taking it day by day,” said Clay County Probate Judge Dianne Branch. “We won’t make a decision until the end of September, if the law goes into effect.”
Officials in several counties said the biggest disruption from the law would occur in the weeks after it goes into effect, as counties try to get out the word.
“At first, there’s going to be a problem because people won’t know what documentation they’re required to bring,” Flowers said.
“Someone will come in to get a tag for their spouse and won’t know they need to bring that person’s ID, and then they’ll have to go back and get it.”
Misunderstandings of that sort could create longer lines, Flowers said.
“I understand the intent of the law,” Brown said. “But on our end, it’s a lot more work.”