Mercedes Benz Manager Victim of Alabama Immigration Law

Mercedes Benz has an assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Al. One of the company's managers from Germany came to Alabama on business. He ended up in jail for violating Alabama's new immigration law. Why? His rental car was stopped for not having an appropriate tag and he didn't have his driver's license on him, only his German identification card.

Alabama's new immigration law requires police to check citizenship status when conducting a traffic stop. Anyone without proper papers gets arrested.

"If it were not for the immigration law, a person without a license in their possession wouldn't be arrested like this...." Previously, drivers who lacked licenses received a ticket and a court summons....

The manager was released when an associate brought his passport and German driver's license to the police department.

What a stupid law. Not being in possession of a driver's license should result in a ticket, not an arrest. [More...]

In July, Mercedes announced it was investing another $2 billion in its Tuscaloosa plant, which makes its M-Class vehicles, and will soon make its GL and C class vehicles. Mercedes has donated more than $1 million to charities in West and Central Alabama for emergency and reconstruction projects following the April, 2011 storms. The Tuscaloosa plant employs more than 2,800 people.

In the July announcement, the company wrote:

"Today, we also celebrate the successful cooperation we have had with the State of Alabama and local governments since we first announced our decision to come to Alabama. We truly appreciate this leadership."

Too bad the company is so invested in Alabama it wouldn't be feasible to move their plant. There are a lot of places without discriminatory immigration laws that are more deserving.

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    And then?? (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 08:42:30 AM EST
    The police have stopped a car where the driver has no license, the car tags are improper and there is no proof of insurance.

    Let's see what the police didn't know:

    If the man was a wanted felon.

    If the man was a terrorist.

    If the man had insurance to cover any personal or property damage he might cause.

    What did the police know?

    He had no drivers license.

    His ID was from another country and could not be verified. (Maybe the officer could ID the country as Germany, maybe not.)

    The auto he was driving did not match the license plates on the car.

    Heck, I'd say the police should be given kudos for detaining this person even if the new immigration law didn't exist!

    a tag may have been (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:37:21 AM EST
    (1) an expired tag
    (2) only having a rear but not front license plate

    or any number of things. There's no indication he didn't have his rental documents with him or insurance papers.

    He had identification with him, his German ID card.  Clearly the officer knew he was from Germany.

    Since he was here on business, I'd bet he also spoke enough English to tell the officer he worked for Mercedes which a phone call could have verified. Officers do have radios in their cars, and cell phones.

    You may wish we were all living in WWII Germany where you had to have papers with you all the time. Most of the rational among us are thankful that we don't.


    It wasn't the lack of "papers." (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 12:09:26 PM EST
    It was the lack of a license, improper plates and the fact that he was driving a rental.

    As I said. Immigration laws aside there were a lot of issues raised that could not be resolved on the spot.


    See below for the rest of mly comment. (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:16:27 PM EST
    The officer is not required to start making calls to embassies, airports, car rental companies, manufacturing plants.

    He is required to check the car, the driver and his condition, and all papers and tags and licenses.  He is required to check back with his headquarters to see what they have on the driver or the cars etc.  Headquarters isn't required to check with those outside entities either.

    The officer is not required to know German or to accept German licenses and papers.

    And again, without proper proof of insurance, the car would not be allowed to be driven.  It would have to be towed in many states including my own primary state.

    It was a good call by the officer.


    Not in California (none / 0) (#20)
    by MKS on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:58:13 AM EST
    If you don't have proof of insurance or a driver's license, you get a "fix it" ticket.  If you later show the court (court clerk) that you had both, the ticket is forgiven.

    We do not have the resources to put people into jail for such trivialities.


    There was no other way of dealing with this? (none / 0) (#12)
    by MKS on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 10:18:12 AM EST
    Great way to attract business.......

    And what was the rental car (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Zorba on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 02:13:28 PM EST
    company doing renting a vehicle without proper tags?  I've rented a lot of cars over the years, but I'm not sure that I've always gone around the back of the car to notice if there was a proper tag there or not- you just assume it's all properly licensed.  If I were in a hurry, in fact, I probably wouldn't check the rear of the car, especially if I have a small suitcase and just throw it in the passenger compartment with me.  I think the rental company bears some responsibility here, too.  (Note to self:  next time you rent a car, check the plates.)

    True, and I had not focused on (none / 0) (#19)
    by MKS on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:55:06 AM EST

    Another case in point (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by NYShooter on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 03:30:43 PM EST
    Unless you were there, or the incident was video taped, we can't be sure why the cop took what, ordinarily, is a "last resort" step. 99 times out of a 100, in civilized States anyway, these minor crapolas are handled in a citizen-friendly manner. I was stopped just a couple of weeks ago while driving a friend's car in NY. I was zapped by those new "photograph cameras," which instantly relay from a computer any outstanding violations. Apparently, the insurance had lapsed and the law is that the car must be impounded, on the spot. But, when the cop saw a baby in the car, he made me promise to drive straight home, no detours, and he let us go.

    I've given previous examples of NY cops showing a little empathy, and judgment. While not knowing the exact details of what happened in Alabama, a well trained, and selected, police officer can more often than not settle a situation without resorting to the "nuclear option" that Alabama cop did.

    Driver's License (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peregwyn on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 08:57:47 PM EST
    When I lived in Ohio, the law was that you had to show your license within 24 hours, but you didn't have to have it on you when driving.  I don't know if that has changed since I moved to Missouri.

    I do know I have ended up at work and noticed I didn't have my wallet and then I hoped I wasn't pulled over on the way back home.

    Same in Maryland (none / 0) (#15)
    by Zorba on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 02:17:26 PM EST
    At least, it used to be, I don't know about now.  Some years ago, Son Zorba went out without his driver's license, got stopped because the rear light over the license plate was out, went to the police station the next day, showed them his license, and showed them he had replaced the little light and it worked, end of story.  No ticket, no fine.  The police were actually quite nice about it.

    I forget my license all the time...geez (none / 0) (#2)
    by Lil on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 09:23:20 PM EST
    Thank god I'm decent driver so I haven't been pulled over in a long time (I'm knocking on wood now), but I hardly worry because I figure the worst that can happen is I get a ticket. Getting arrested never seems like part of the equation. We are becoming quite a police state. And people don't seem to care; everyone just seems to go along. We are being regulated to death.

    It's embarassing to me. (none / 0) (#3)
    by jeffinalabama on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 10:50:21 PM EST
    I fought against this law. The governor who signed it didn't hold it high on his agenda, but in the republican party, he's on the extremely conservative side, while the bat$hit crazy side made this one of the first items on the agenda... right after attacking the teachers' union.

    The idiot who crafted and sponsored this bill lost his leadership position in the repub senate dir using the word 'aborigines' to refer to the Greene County residents-- that county is majority African American.

    I am sorry but this man had no usable ID, and (none / 0) (#4)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 04:10:39 AM EST
    he was driving on our roads without a license which is illegal.

    Very probably the officer at the scene couldn't read the German ID, and without knowing who the driver was, should take him in to get everything cleared up, identify him, make sure the man had no wants or warrants, make sure he had the car legally, make sure he was licensed to drive, and this was what was done.  Good job!

    Let the driver go without this check, and he might do some dastardly deed like blow up a power plant.

    Yes that is a little far fetched, but the world is a dangerous place.  

    I forgot to add. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 04:14:03 AM EST
    The car had no proper tag.

    I imagine that the officer couldn't verify that the car had insurance.

    In many states including my own, in that case, the car is stopped, no one is allowed to drive it, and it is towed even if the person has a license.


    it was a rental car (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:31:45 AM EST
    He had a usable ID, it was from another country. There's no indication he didn't have the car's rental documents with him. Driving without your license is a ticketable, not arrestable offense, most places.

    Sorry, Jeralyn. (5.00 / 0) (#17)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:08:32 PM EST
    (Been gone all day.  Big foot ball game.)

    I beg to differ Jeralyn.  A usable ID is not an ID from another country in a different language.

    No Way!

    But yes the rental car company was also remiss in not setting up their car properly.

    You say that there was no indication that the driver didn't have the proper rental documents with him, but likewise we have no indication that he did.

    The other point is that an Officer on the Hwy is not obligated to start calling rental car companies, or the Mercedes Benz corporation or other entities.  They only thing the officer is required to do is check the available papers on the driver and the car, check the drivers condition, and to check back with headquarters on whether they have information.

    Everything else is a requirement of the driver and in this case the rental company.

    The rental company and the driver both failed in their obligations.


    oy (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:28:58 AM EST
    Two points (none / 0) (#6)
    by scribe on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 08:27:22 AM EST
    First, M-B chose Alabama for one main (and one subsidiary) reason:  craptastic, management-friendly labor laws that let them make a hell of a lot more money instead of paying it to their workers.  And then, there's however much the State is paying them to locate there, either directly or in tax abatements.

    Second, German media - which I read regularly - has no mention of this.  And they won't.  This is just a cost of doing business to them and, moreover, the Germans will get preferential treatment from local law enforcement anyway.  Alabama may have a lot of backward in its makeup, but they do know on which side their bread is buttered.

    No need to bash Mercedes (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 09:51:15 AM EST
    which by all accounts has been a tremendous boon for Alabama workers, providing 2,000 jobs. Mercedes is also credited with having Toyota, Honda and Toyota to open plants in Alabama.

    Mercedes contributes to the community and your assertion they are unfair to workers is unsupported. It also grants fellowships to engineering doctoral students in Alabama.

    The company has invested a total of $4 billion in its Alabama plant. It's most recent cash infusion included $65 million for job training.

    From its website:


      MBUSI offers an excellent compensation and benefits package, including health and life insurance, 401(k) and pension plans and an on-site child development center and wellness center.

    Good (none / 0) (#21)
    by ColumbiaBlue on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 03:19:57 PM EST
    I will say that I'm glad the police officer followed the letter of the law in this case.  I do not agree with this law AT ALL and I'm sure there are some cops who would have given a German a pass in a way they would not have done for a Hispanic.  If Alabama wants to have such a ridiculous law, they should feel the full weight of its practical effects.  I hope the governor and legislators are panicking because of unintended consequences.  Serves them right.

    If the driver had been Hispanic, (none / 0) (#22)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:07:28 AM EST
    the meme here would have been all about racism. Since the driver was white, we are told that IF he had been Hispanic, they would have been racist toward him, but since he's not, his skin color would magically make some cops give him a pass. Of course, the cop didn't give him a pass, and if the guy had been a terrorist who snuck into the country, it would have been grossly negligent of the police to not detain him.

    We need to deal with terrorists AND illegal immigrants without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. But it does us no good to cry racism without any grounds. How are we going to deal with real racism when people are making up imaginary racism in order to support and encourage illegal immigration?

    This incident is a great example of how anti-illegal immigration laws are NOT racist.