A change in state policy is making it more difficult for immigrants to register and get titles for vehicles.
On July 12, the state stopped allowing use of a federal Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN, instead of a Social Security number. Other documents that may be used include a business tax ID number, a Kentucky driver's license, an immigration visa or passports stamped with a certain status.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet made the change at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Kentucky State Police, spokesman Chuck Wolfe said.
"During the course of a records search by FBI and Kentucky State Police investigators, it was brought to the agency's attention that use of the ITIN for identification purposes in registering or titling motor vehicles was not permitted by the IRS," Wolfe said. "An ITIN is to be used solely for federal tax reporting."
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He said the state was open to the idea of allowing other proof of identification when registering and titling a vehicle, "though we cannot yet say what it might be. It is the subject of continuing discussion."
Thousands of people with and without legal documentation could be affected by the policy change, said Marilyn Daniel, an attorney with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington.
"It doesn't just impact undocumented people. It impacts everybody who is not a citizen," said Daniel, who practices immigration law.
Brian Rich, a member of the board of the Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said he thought Kentucky's change in policy was an attack on immigrants.
"To me it's sort of death by a thousand cuts to the immigrant community," Rich said.
Wolfe said the cabinet was not targeting any group of people, only trying to comply with federal law.
Previously, people who filed income tax returns could register and title vehicles even if they did not have Social Security numbers, did not have legal immigration status or were here legally but didn't meet certain other requirements.
As a result of the policy change, Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. said his office is turning away people because title applications that use tax ID numbers are being rejected by the state.
He said some people have been submitting inaccurate information — fake Social Security numbers — when they try to transfer titles.
Blevins said the change also is affecting people who unknowingly sell a vehicle to those whose title applications are being rejected by the state.
Daniel said the policy also would affect those who are not citizens and are in the country legally but don't own property, aren't registered to vote and don't have a driver's license. Those people still might want vehicles, she said.
Daniel said she finds no legal basis for the policy change. She said state law specifically says that someone applying to register or get a title for a vehicle should not be required to produce a Social Security number. Daniel said she has met with the Transportation Cabinet to express concerns.
Blevins said he met with state officials last week to discuss possible solutions to "assure that our goal of having everybody registered, fairly taxed and insured is met."
When a title application is rejected by the state, Blevins said, his staff must "track down the buyer and get them to come back into the office and ... provide a form of identification or a number that" the state will accept.
Shelby County Clerk Sue Carole Perry said that the transfer of five titles are in limbo in her county because of the policy change and that each day since the change, at least one person has left her office unable to transfer a vehicle.