Mercedes-Benz Exec Arrested Under HB 56

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley requested details about an incident in which an executive for German carmaker Mercedes-Benz was arrested following a routine traffic stop near Tuscaloosa on November 16.

The 46-year-old exec was driving a rental car without a tag when he was stopped by police officers, according to The Associated Press. Because the driver was only able to furnish a German identification card and not a U.S. driver’s license or other documentation proving he was in the country legally, the officers arrested him, as is called for by the state’s controversial immigration law, HB 56.

Under previous law, the man would have been issued a ticket and a court summons, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told the AP.

The executive was released from police custody after a colleague produced the man’s passport, U.S. visa and German driver’s license, the AP reported. However, the case subsequently came to the attention of the state’s governor, who contacted Alabama’s homeland security director, Spencer Collier, to ensure that the law had been properly executed.

Collier told the news source that police officers had acted appropriately by arresting the executive. A Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told the AP that the man was in Alabama to visit the company’s assembly plant near Tuscaloosa, and referred to the incident as an “unfortunate situation.”

While this case might demonstrate how HB 56 could complicate the ability of overseas companies to do business in Alabama, much of the immediate economic impact of the law has been felt by the state’s agriculture sector.

Because HB 56 makes it a felony to employ immigrants who do not have a work permit, the state’s farmers report it has been exceedingly difficult to find the laborers needed to harvest crops.

The Center for American Progress recently reported that while the impact of HB 56 has not yet been quantified, anecdotal reports from Alabama farmers indicate the losses have been substantial. CAP quoted tomato farmer Brian Cash, who said approximately 15,000 boxes of tomatoes went unharvested and rotted in his fields.