Nothing “unintended” in arrest of Mercedes executive in Alabama

Here’s the beginning of a piece from Bloomberg, Alabama Considers Revision of Immigration Law Ensnaring Mercedes Executive:

On Nov. 16, a European businessman paying a visit to his company’s manufacturing plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was pulled over for driving a rental car without a tag.

The police officer asked the man for his license, but the only paperwork he had with him was a German I.D. card. Anywhere else in the nation, the cop might have issued the man a citation. Not in Alabama, where a strict new law requires police to look into the immigration status of people detained for routine traffic violations. Because the man couldn’t prove he had the right to be in the U.S., he was arrested and hauled off to the police station.

The businessman turned out to be an executive with Mercedes-Benz, one of Alabama’s prized manufacturers, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Nov. 28 issue. The Mercedes plant employs 3,400 people, and the company’s much-heralded decision in 1993 to build cars in the state encouraged Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota to follow.

The piece continues:

“I was really embarrassed and overwhelmed,” says state Senator Gerald Dial. “Mercedes has done more to change the image of Alabama than just about anything else. We don’t want to upset those people.”
Dial, who voted for the law in June along with every other Republican legislator but one, started having second thoughts soon after the statute went into effect in late September. Fearful of being deported, immigrants fled the state by the thousands, resulting in labor shortages.

The law has also caused confusion for U.S. business owners and workers, who worry that they’ll inadvertently run afoul of a provision making it a felony for illegal immigrants to engage in any kind of “business transaction” with the state.

“It’s being read so broadly that it’s creating an unnecessary burden that nobody ever intended,” says state Senator Bryan Taylor, a freshman Republican.

So the departure of thousands of undocumented workers is an unintended consequence of the Alabama legislation? So the legal and by-the-book arrest of a foreign national who has committed no crime — the rental car company is surely to blame for the missing tag — is unintended too? And the concerns of businesspeople who knowingly engage in commerce with undocumented residents, those are unintended too?

The Alabama law — and the stringent anti-immigrant legislation in other states — is working pretty much as intended. And such laws are doing clear damage to the economies of the states that have enacted them. This incident and the ones like it that will surely follow will also do damage to economic development.

I wrote yesterday about Newt Gingrich’s reasonable and “humane” statements about illegal immigrants at the most recent Republican presidential debate. There have been numerous reports since then about the likelihood of large numbers of Republican voters rejecting Gingrich simply for this one issue. So it’s practical to try to round up 11 million people, arrest them, and deport them? It makes good sense to cripple local economies that have begun to rely on immigrant labor? It’s acceptable to make laws — like the one in Alabama — via which any citizen or temporary resident who doesn’t carry appropriate documentation can be arrested in any encounter with police?