U.S. DOT opens investigation into Alabama Driver License Office closures, Bentley responds

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation announce it will investigate the possible violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the state of Alabama. This after The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) closed or reduced serves at driver livense office across Alabama.

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis or race, color or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal assistance.

“Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation is making it clear that Title VI is not optional and that we will work to make sure all of its components are enforced,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Driver License Offices offer essential services to the American people, including providing thousands in Alabama with a method of identification. It is critical that these services be free of discrimination, and serve the people of the state fairly and equally.”

The state announced the closure and reduction in services at 34 offices on September 30. Preliminary information acquired by the Department shows the closures may be discriminate against Alabama African American residents.

It is our obligation to ensure that recipients of federal funding are in compliance with federal laws that guarantee equal access and opportunity for all,” said Departmental Civil Rights Acting Director Stephanie Jones. “Our concern rests in the possibility that the State’s closure of driver license offices disproportionately constrains the ability of some residents to secure driving privileges, register personal and commercial vehicles, and obtain proper identification –a critical requirement for access to essential activities such as opening a bank account and voting.”

The information from the Department of Transportation says it has not reached any conclusion about the subject matter of the investigation. It goes on to say investigators will consider all relevant information, including the efforts the State has taken to ensure compliance with federal law.

Governor Robert Bentley responded to news of this investigation with the following statement:

“In an ongoing attempt to politicize a resolved issue, the United States Department of Justice informed my office Tuesday of an impending investigation by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) that is in its early stages and no findings have been made. Due to legislative budget cuts, in September 2015, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) reallocated driver license examination personnel back to the district drivers license offices on a full time basis. Prior to this budget decision, these examiners, who are state employees, were traveling to each county level probate office or courthouse once or twice a week to provide the service of examination.  I made the decision in October 2015 to ensure that an examiner report to each county level office at least once a month to continue providing this service.

“Despite what the Obama Administration claims, there were no driver license offices closed in Alabama.  Despite facts to the contrary, opportunistic politicians such as Hillary Clinton have politicized an Alabama budgeting issue to serve their own agenda, going so far as to travel to our state for the sole purpose of political pandering. This USDOT investigation is nothing more than a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama and exploit our state in the name of a political agenda. I am confident that the USDOT investigation will find no basis for the claims of discrimination.  It is time for the Obama Administration and aspiring national politicians to listen to facts, stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars and put the political agendas away.”

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