Monday, November 21, 2011

German Mercedes-Benz Executive Arrested Under Alabama's Immigration Law

Alabama’s economy is suffering because of HB 56, the state’s draconian immigration law, as workers flee out of fear. State Sen. Scott Beason (R), who sponsored the anti-immigrant bill in the Alabama legislature, once called it a “jobs bill,” but the state’s immigration law is leaving entire industries without enough workers instead.

And the extreme law, which legislators are now reconsidering, could seriously damage the state’s reputation as well after police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive last week under the immigration law. Mercedes opened its first American manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama in 1993, spurring a trend of foreign car makers and suppliers opening factories in the state. They may be rethinking that decision, however, after one of their German executives was arrested for simply not having his passport with him:

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told The Associated Press an officer stopped a rental vehicle for not having a tag Wednesday night and asked the driver for his license. The man only had a German identification card, so he was arrested and taken to police headquarters, Anderson said.

The 46-year-old executive was charged with violating the immigration law for not having proper identification, but he was released after an associate retrieved his passport, visa and German driver’s license from the hotel where he was staying, Anderson said.

The length of his detainment and the status of his court case weren’t immediately known.

Bentley…called the state’s homeland security director, Spencer Collier, after hearing of the arrest to get details about what had happened, Collier said in an interview.

“Initially I didn’t have them, so I called Chief Anderson to find out what happened,” Collier said. “It sounds like the officer followed the statute correctly.”

Before Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed HB 56, drivers who did not have a license were given a ticket and court summons, Collier said. “If it were not for the immigration law, a person without a license in their possession wouldn’t be arrested like this,” he told the AP.

In October, the New York Times speculated in an editorial that despite best efforts to recruit foreign automakers to Alabama, the state was now “infamous as a regional capital of xenophobia.” And if the immigration law scared away a manufacturer like Mercedes, which employs about 2,800 Alabamians, or Hyundai, which announced an expansion at its Montgomery, Alabama plant in May, would only compound the state’s economic woes. The unfortunate arrest of a visiting Mercedes executive only underscores the damage Alabama’s harmful anti-immigrant law will continue to do to the state’s economy — and its reputation.