Law enforcement to learn immigration law

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's Department of Homeland Security bears the responsibility of ensuring that all of Alabama's law enforcement officers understand how to implement and enforce the state's new immigration law.

Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled last week that all but a few parts of the law would take effect.

"It is important that our law enforcement know what the law does and doesn't mean" said Spencer Collier, the Director of Alabama's Department of Homeland Security.

Collier acknowledged that Alabama is in a different position than other states like Indiana, Arizona, and Georgia which have each passed strict immigration measures of their own.

"It looks like we're the first state to survive the first round of the federal challenge" Collier said in an interview in his office.

The Department of Homeland Security will begin its efforts to inform law enforcement of the laws limits during meetings this week in Huntsville and Montgomery. Special Agents with the department, as well as Collier himself, will attend those meetings.

Collier said "Taking that opportunity to meet with local law enforcement executives and training officers and making sure they have a good understanding of the act and again, what they can do, what they're supposed to do, but just as important, what they can't do"

With the new law came new responsibilities as well as new challenges for the department according to Collier. He said he has already hired two additional special agents to address telling officers how to enforce the new law.

The meetings initially will be with training officers and executives in local police departments.

Collier reiterated that he is confident that many of the claims made during rallies and by opponents of the new law are not based in fact. He said people need to understand that law enforcement officers are not political entities and that it is their job to enforce the law whether they agree with it or not.

"Alabama is blessed for the most part, the overwhelming majority of the law enforcement officers in this state are bright and articulate and I don't think there's anyone out there that's looking for a reason to trample on someone's civil rights" Collier said. "But it's our job at Alabama DHS to help them understand the act and that's exactly what we're going to do."

The E-Verify portion of the law Collier said presents its own challenges. E-Verify is the federal system which allows employers to check the citizenship status of each employee. He reiterated that full compliance and use of the system is not required until Spring 2012, but that it will still be a tall task to make sure the state is completely informed by that time.

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