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Alabama Nabs Honda Exec A Week After Jailing Mercedes Manager Under Immigration Law

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Cropped shot of Honda logo on 2009 Honda Civic Si coupe

Cropped shot of Honda logo on 2009 Honda Civic Si coupe

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Many of the people arrested under Alabama's new immigration law--immigrants from Central and South America, documented or not--get no media attention.

A state that arrests or tickets executives from foreign automakers who provide thousands of jobs, however, makes the press sit up and take notice.

Two weeks, two executives

Just 12 days after a Mercedes-Benz executive was arrested and briefly jailed in Tuscaloosa for not having his driver's license with him.

Now it's happened again.

On Wednesday, Ichiro Yada, a Japanese national working on assignment at Honda's assembly plant in Lincoln, Alabama, was stopped at a traffic checkpoint where officers checked drivers' licenses in an attempt to catch unlicensed drivers.

Yada showed the officers a passport, a U.S. work permit, and a valid international driver's license. Despite that, he was issued a ticket--which was dismissed three days later by a judge, presumably at the request of embarrassed city officials.

Show us your papers

Pulled over by the police

Pulled over by the police

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Alabama's HB56, the most aggressive state law to target immigrants, took effect in September. The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit against parts of it, saying it conflicts with Federal immigration enforcement. Last month a Federal appeals court struck down a provision requiring schools to prove legal residency for all students before enrolling them.

But provisions remaining in force require police officers to determine the nationality and immigration status of any persons they stop who they may suspect are in the U.S. illegally. All drivers must carry a valid license either from their state or their own country; undocumented immigrants are not allowed to receive licenses in the state.

Any person unable to prove his or her identification must be arrested--and the local mayor noted that Lincoln's police force must follow state law.

"There is not a whole lot we can do until the Alabama legislature sees that there is a problem," said Lincoln mayor Lew Watson. With Southern understatement, he added that the Legislature "would prefer that this not happen, I am sure."

Widespread impact

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama proudly boasts that the state now builds the fifth highest number of cars of any state in the country--from building none at all 20 years ago.

Mercedes-Benz logo

Mercedes-Benz logo

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Mercedes-Benz opened its plant in Tuscaloosa in 1993, which now builds the M-Class, GL-Class, and R-Class sport-utility vehicles, and it plans to double that plant's output in 2015 by adding the C-Class sedan.

Honda opened its Lincoln, Alabama, plant in 1999. It now assembles the Odyssey minivan, Pilot crossover, and Ridgeline pickup truck, and will add the Acura MDX. Of the 4,000 workers at the Lincoln facility, Honda said roughly 100 were employees from Japan on assignment.

Both arrests were widely covered in the automotive trade press, and overseas as well. Britain's Guardian opened a lengthy article on the arrests with an Oscar Wilde allusion: "To arrest one foreign car-making executive under Alabama's new tough immigration laws may be regarded as a misfortune; to arrest a second looks like carelessness."

Mercedes-Benz teases new crossover at plant presentation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Mercedes-Benz teases new crossover at plant presentation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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The immigration law has affected businesses beyond the auto industry. The state's agricultural sector has seen a sudden exodus of workers, and construction workers have fled as well. Families have pulled their kids out of schools, and many minimum-wage service workers no longer show up for their jobs.

Hostile to business, jobs?

States eager to welcome relocating or expanding companies often seize on bad publicity about other states to publicize their own attitudes of acceptance and tolerance. And other states have moved quickly to capitalize on Alabama's bad publicity.

After Hager's arrest, for example, Missouri's St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial inviting Mercedes-Benz and other foreign automakers to relocate and join Ford and GM in that state's car industry.

David Bronner, CEO of Alabama's pension system, noted that the state's new immigration law is "giving the image, whether it's valid or not, that you don't like foreigners, period."

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Comments (34)
  1. The Honda guy had proper ID and a valid international drivers license. Alabama should apologize. That's a false arrest.

  2. They didn't arrest him. They ticketed him, and no one is saying what the ticket is about. It could have been a ticket for not wearing his seat belt, or having improper insurance. The folks posting these articles are either not doing their research or purposely ignoring the truth. You cannot use this as an example of how horrible the law is unless you have facts. 1) He was not arrested. 2) What was the ticket for?

  3. Oh please. Like we don't know what the ticket was about. Every day, in every state, cops who don't know better give out wrongful tickets; I'll lay odds that this cop didn't grasp the meaning of "international" driver's license. If it ain't issued in Alabam, it ain't valid! Half of the little speed trap towns all over the US get their revenue by ticketing people with out of state plates for any pretext, right or wrong, figuring they aren't likely to come back for a court hearing.

  4. Yeah those darn idiot cops that don't realize you don't need your actual DL as well as the IDL.... oh, wait..."This International Driver’s License, however, is valid only with the original driver's license, which must be currently valid and not suspended or expired. The International Drivers License also indicates that you are a holder of a valid drivers license from your home country, fulfiling the right for a person to drive in another country when accompanied by an original and valid driver's license. "

  5. Since when did the facts stop a liberal?

  6. He wasn't actually arrested. He was issued a ticket which was later thrown out.

  7. International driver's license is not recognized in the United States. They ticketed him for driving without a license and I think it is BS that it was dismissed. I have nothing against non US citizens in the country legally but they should follow the laws and be held accountable when they don't just like the rest of us.

  8. Its too bad that as a foreign national, he could not actually get a valid Alabama license under the new law. Its as Missouri state: those 'Bamans in their State House just don't like foreigners, period. Except when they bring money or cheap labor, which is what will likely cause them to repeal this even without further court action in the next couple of years.

  9. There are more comments in this thread
  10. Oh, one more thing. I don't care if the company provides thousands of jobs. It still has to follow the laws established. They're not immune from the law, they're not diplomatic personnel, they're private company personnel. You're advocating they get special privileges, as if they were diplomatic people.

  11. Though these two arrests were obviously wrong, the law itself appears to be having the desired effect. Undocumented (read illegal) immigrants are fleeing the state. All U.S. states should have the guts to adopt such laws... especially California. (Just like most legal immigrants, I too am strongly opposed to illegal migration.)

  12. The immigration law has affected businesses beyond the auto industry. The state's agricultural sector has seen a sudden exodus of workers, and construction workers have fled as well. Families have pulled their kids out of schools, and many minimum-wage service workers no longer show up for their jobs.


  13. Glad to see Alabama is enforcing the laws that the Feds are failing to enforce.

  14. It's baffling how many people are ok with this law. Personally, I would give a big F*^K YOU to each and every cop that asked me for my ID at an inspection point and tell them to take my wallet by force and have a look, and would continue to do so despite punishment because this is America, where we are supposed to be FREE FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE! Geez, what has our country come to?

  15. driving is not a right of citizenship. These asians were not Americans. The japanese have did worse to Americans. so suck it up.

  16. That is going to be a matter for the courts as driving/commuting is an essential element to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The majority of people in the US have to commute to earn a good enough living to take care of their families.

  17. Actually, if I were King, Mercedes wouldn't be allowed to do business in this country after what they did to Chrysler and the U.S. Taxpayer. So whatever happened to those Nazi's, they deserved! As far as the Honda employee is concerned, I agree with "Waitasec", we don't know why he was ticketed. I think Alabama is right with their laws governing Illegals. In California, the costs to the taxpayers is astronomical and getting worse every year. As long as the Demo-Commies control our Government, this is going to be the normal.

  18. I agree with you about Daim/ler as we used to (hilariously) refer to the Daimler/Chrysler "merger of equals". But US companies buy up and demolish other US companies every day, tossing people onto the street much worse than Daimler did.

  19. The MB and Honda employees are non-citizens. They may be authorized legal residents, but still must follow the established laws for their specific class of residency. They are NOT us citizens, and must provide documentation upon request or face jail time and/or deportation. They don't have the rights of U.S. citizens. They are legal non-citizens with temporary residence and work permits, i.e. green cards. To treat them otherwise would mean there is no legal standing for the treatment of illegal Hispanic immigrants, or any illegal immigrants for that matter.

  20. But you don't know they're not citizens, until you've apprehended and investigated them. Turn the thing over; imagine that they stopped and arrested a foreign guy, who was a US citizen but wasn't carrying his passport. You have enacted a de facto law requiring all American citizens to carry their "papers" at all times. Ironically, most of the people who are behind this brilliant idea, are the same people who used to put down the Soviet Union and other places which require you to produce proper papers when stopped by a policeman for no reason.

  21. I take it you have never been to europe. You have to have papers/ passport ready. Only America is so stupid to think everyone is legal and not a south / north border invader.

  22. Not true at all. Just a valid DL.

  23. Secondly, the law is impossible to enforce fairly. You obviously can't stop every person and detain every person who doesn't have proof of citizenship on them. Do you have such proof on you, right now? So, until it becomes customary to carry such, do you think the white guy with the Jesus on the dash and the Southern drawl has the same chance of being detained as the brown guy with the thick Hispanic accent, even though he's been a citizen for 50 years now? It's basically a law requiring profiling.

  24. Life is unfair. Try going to china and blend in when your 6'5" with red hair. Yes the police will follow you every where.

  25. Yep. And everyone in this building does as well, regardless of color.

  26. Oh dear. Whenever gay hating states come to mind, Alabama always seems to be at the top of the list. Now it is foreigner unfriendly. Perhaps Alabama could use some anger management therapy.

  27. Apparently there is a definite shortage of common sense in Alabama, not only with the police but more so with the policy makers.

  28. so letting the USA be over run by invaders is ok? you are one confused person. Even their home countries do not want them so what does that tell you

  29. We (folks of non-Native American descent) are the invaders. This comment is therefore a complete nonsequitur.

  30. Alabama will only hurt its economy even more than it is already in trouble. The people in Alabama in support this law will likely try to blame the foreign companies once they leave the state. They will only get what they asked for.

  31. Man, they take that Driving While Asian stuff very seriously down there.

  32. driving while stupid is taken more seriously.

  33. It does conflict with federal enforcement, in that it is actually enforcement and not mere lip service.

  34. The immigration law has affected businesses beyond the auto industry. The state's agricultural sector has seen a sudden exodus of workers, and construction workers have fled as well. Families have pulled their kids out of schools, and many minimum-wage service workers no longer show up for their jobs.


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