Clanton police amend policy to reflect new immigration law

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Clanton City Council voted Monday to amend the police department’s policy manual to reflect the state’s new immigration law.

Police Chief Brian Stilwell said a provision of the law requires police departments to enforce the law — if cities refuse, their mayors and police chiefs could face various penalties.

Under the new policy, anyone who is pulled over for a traffic stop or lawfully detained must show one of six forms of identification. Some forms of acceptable ID include a valid Alabama driver’s license, state non-driver ID card, some federal IDs and foreign passports with unexpired U.S. visas.

“Ninety percent of the time, it will stop at the driver’s license,” said Sgt. Neil Fetner.

People who forget to carry their license can usually have their citizenship status verified by providing officers with certain personal information.

But Fetner cautions people to not take that chance.

“Have your ID, and be prepared to show your ID,” Fetner said.

People who fail to provide any of the six forms of acceptable ID and can’t be found in any database will be cited and arrested for driving without a license.

Anyone detained must appear before a magistrate within 24 hours to determine citizenship status.

If someone is in the country legally or if the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency fails to provide citizenship status information within 24 hours, the person detained must be immediately released, pending bond on any local charges.

People found to be in the country illegally will be transferred into ICE custody once legal charges are adjudicated.

So far, only one person has gone through the process and was picked up by ICE after seven days in Clanton’s custody.

In that case, a driver was pulled over for having an expired tag. He couldn’t produce any acceptable form of ID. It was also later determined that he gave a bogus name to the arresting officer.

Fetner said the amendment to the department’s policy would be rescinded if federal courts eventually overturn the law, which is being appealed by the U.S. Justice Department and other groups.

He said it’s also likely the state Legislature will close some loopholes and make other changes when it reconvenes early next year, which could also affect the department’s policy.

In the meantime, he said CPD had no choice but to enforce the law as it was written.

“We want to make sure we cover our bases and the city’s liability by enforcing the law,” Fetner said.

Fetner also wanted to stress that the law prohibits law enforcement from “racial profiling,” and that officers will only be checking IDs of people lawfully detained or arrested. The law also provides immunity from the immigration law for victims and witnesses of crimes.