Alabama’s complex and controversial new immigration laws don’t leave police with a lot of room for interpretation. If you’re stopped and can’t produce documentation, you go to jail until you can prove your identity (and nationality), or until you sit before a judge.
The law is applied to all, even visiting managers from Mercedes-Benz Germany. Last Friday, police in Tuscaloosa, Ala., stopped a rental vehicle for a license plate violation. Inside, police found two men, but the German driver could not produce a driver’s license or another identity document, so he was taken into custody and placed in the Tuscaloosa city jail.
The incident was resolved when the man’s colleague returned with the driver’s German passport and driver’s license.
As CNN points out, critics of the law will use the incident to illustrate its likelihood to drive foreign companies away from the state, at a time when Alabama is working hard to attract them. The state is home to Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai vehicle assembly plants, as well as a Toyota and Hyundai engine factories and dozens of supplier plants, and the factories provide much-needed revenue at both the state and local levels.
Those in favor of the new immigration law cite the incident as proof that police aren’t profiling, and are applying the new statutes fairly to all.
Worth noting is that police had the power to arrest undocumented detainees even under the previous laws, but had more latitude for incidents such as this. Under the new laws, immigration status must be checked during a traffic stop, and those unable to produce identity documents are remanded into custody.
Mercedes-Benz is shrugging it off as an “unfortunate situation,” and we’re inclined to agree. We’ve spent plenty of time overseas, and traveling with your passport (and international driver’s license) on your person at all times is covered in Travel 101. Let’s use this as a reminder and move on.