Mercedes-Benz exec arrested under Alabama immigration law

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Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz may be questioning its decision to set up shop in Alabama. Image: michieldijcks/Flickr/CC BY

Alabama’s controversial new immigration law is the strictest in the nation. Last week, a German executive with  Mercedes Benz was stopped by Tuscaloosa police and arrested for not having proper identification. Many in the state are now questioning the immigration policy, fearing it may cost the state money from foreign-owned corporations.

Jailed for not having valid ID

Detlev Hager, 46, was driving a rented Kia with no license plate, prompting the officer to pull him over. When asked to show identification, he produced his German ID, but he had left his passport and driver’s license at his hotel. According to the new immigration law in Alabama, everyone has to carry valid identification or go to jail. Before the new law was enacted, Hager would have been given a citation and sent on his way.

Arrests test new law

A colleague of Hager’s was able to retrieve the executive’s passport and driver’s license, leading to the charges later being dropped — but not the controversy.

According to the Tuscaloosa police department, Hager is one of 66 people who were detained in the city for not having proper ID since the law went into effect on Oct. 1. Half of those arrested were black males.

Auto industry in Alabama

Today many in the state are questioning whether the tough law will keep foreign companies from investing in the state. The Tuscaloosa Mecedes-Benz factory was a major coup for Alabama. The state paid $253 million in incentives to lure the German automaker to build the first automobile production plant ever in the state. Since that time, Honda and Hyundai have also opened plants in Alabama. The auto industry now keeps about 6.8 percent of Alabama’s labor force employed, according to a report by the Center for Automotive Research.

Other states lobby for foreign business

David Bronner, chief executive of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, spends much of his day trying to lure new businesses to the state. He said countries thinking of investing in the state have their eye on the controversy. And other states with looser immigration policies are using that to lobby for their own turf.

“Sometimes we forget in Alabama that when we label a group as a problem and when we paint the brush so broadly, we’ve included most of the world,” he said. “We’ve just used a hammer and we’ve hit ourselves over the head with it.”


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