Friday, December 2, 2011
Alabama AG's office: Cities should only use federal database to check immigration status
Published: Thursday, December 01, 2011, 10:12 PM Updated: Thursday, December 01, 2011, 11:21 PM
By Steve Doyle, The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- An opinion issued by the Alabama Attorney General's Office late Thursday appears to have broad implications for how cities enforce the state's controversial immigration law.
The guidance letter from Attorney General Luther Strange says cities and counties "cannot implement" sections of the law that require immigration status checks until they are enrolled in the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service's SAVE program.
Huntsville and Madison County have both applied for permission to join the federal database but have not been approved. SAVE -- short for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements -- confirms a person's lawful status through a quick computer check.
City Attorney Peter Joffrion said Strange's opinion "seems to halt the whole process of verification" until Huntsville is enrolled in the database.
The city applied to join SAVE shortly after U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn's Sept. 28 ruling upholding much of the state's far-reaching immigration law.
Mayor Tommy Battle said enrolling in the program is "very onerous," and he was not sure Thursday night how much longer it would take.
"This seems to mean that you treat (immigrants) like everybody else until you get in the SAVE system," Battle said, "then you let the system tell you" whether they are in the country legally.