U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently announced that the Department of Transportation has reached an agreement with Alabama officials to ensure motor vehicle services will be available to all state residents, regardless of race, color or national origin, in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation took on this issue as part of our responsibility under Title VI to prevent discriminatory behavior, and I’m pleased to have reached this agreement with the state of Alabama,” Foxx said last week. “DMVs play a critical role in the day-to-day functioning of the American people, including ensuring their ability to drive to work and other essential services and to get proper identification needed to vote or open a bank account.”
In late 2015, Alabama announced that it planned to close or reduce service at 31 driver license offices throughout the state.
The preliminary analysis of the closures suggested that the service modifications would disproportionately affect African-American residents in the state’s “Black Belt” region.
The U.S. Department of Transportation opened an investigation into whether this action violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits entities that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin in their programs and activities.
“No one should be prevented from accessing these services based on their race, color or national origin — Title VI is not optional,” Foxx said.
The state of Alabama, particularly the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), receives federal assistance from the Department and therefore are subject to Title VI’s nondiscrimination prohibition.
According to the Transportation Department, the investigation revealed that African-Americans residing in the state’s Black Belt region are disproportionately underserved by ALEA’s driver license services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race, in violation of Title VI.
Alabama agreed to expand the hours of operation for district and field driver license offices throughout the Black Belt region and appoint a Title VI coordinator who will be responsible for the development and operation of ALEA’s Title VI program, as well as for the provision of Title VI training to ALEA’s staff.
The state also agreed to prepare and submit a Community Participation Plan within 90 days to achieve robust community participation throughout all stages of the planning and decision-making processes for ALEA’s programs; and submit any proposed modifications to field office hours or driver’s license services to the Transportation Department for prior approval.
The agreement will also establish a working relationship between the department and ALEA for ensuring that the state’s driver licenses services continue to comply with Title VI.
“Today’s agreement … is intended to correct this violation by guaranteeing that driver licensing services will be available to all Alabama residents on an equitable basis without regard to race, color or national origin,” said Yvette Rivera, associate director of the Transportation Department’s Office of Civil Rights.