The Cost Of Doing Business Under Alabama’s Immigration Law

Originally on the AILA Leadership Blog

You can’t make this stuff up.

A foreign executive from Mercedes-Benz gets arrested in Alabama and charged criminally under the state’s new immigration law. Was he alien smuggling? Drug trafficking? Committing a violent crime?

Nope. He left his visa in his hotel room.

Under Alabama’s new immigration law that’s a crime. The 46-year-old German manager—or, as they call him in Alabama, the suspected criminal—was quickly thrown into jail by local police when he couldn’t produce his immigration papers after he was stopped on his way to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. Imagine the scene at the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Germany as the top brass scurried about trying to find someone to post bail for the luckless manager who suddenly found himself sitting in some rural Alabama lock-up.

Much has been written about the horror of Alabama’s hate-infested immigration law and how it has wreaked havoc upon the state. There was the heart wrenching report of the 4th grade Latina girl who was asked by her teacher to produce her immigration papers, the photos of ripe produce left to rot in worker-less Alabama fields, and the media reports of the difficult and dirty jobs left open by the flight of undocumented workers.

And despite the unquestionable havoc the law has wreaked upon the good citizens of Alabama, the lobbyists and politicians who enacted it have had the audacity to suggest that the chilling due process violations, the acute shortages of essential workers, and the climate of fear it has created  throughout the state is merely a temporary bump on the road to an illegal alien free Alabama. But the fundamental economic assumption upon which they have pushed their mean spirited law—that U.S. workers will fill the void created by the fleeing immigrants—has proven false. In fact, as was reported recently in Bloomberg Businessweek, the exact opposite is true. In the wake of the mass exodus of undocumented immigrants from Alabama, many difficult, unpleasant jobs—the tough and dirty ones like picking vegetables, gutting fish, washing dishes, and cleaning beds—remain open in Alabama, unfilled by American workers.

In this economy—or in any economy for that matter—most states do whatever it takes to attract economic development. That’s why, back in 1993 when Mercedes-Benz announced it would open a plant to build sport utility vehicles in their state, Alabama officials rejoiced. Since then other foreign automakers have followed suit including Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai, fueling Alabama’s economic growth.

But would Mercedes-Benz or any other foreign company make that same decision today? What were the Alabama politicians thinking when they enacted this law? Did they really think they would secure Alabama’s economic future by passing a spiteful immigration law which, among other things, so easily puts a foreign corporate manager at risk of arrest and prosecution during a business trip?

Alabama development officials beckon employers to the state with an online brochure promising a “favorable business climate”, “effective workforce training”, “attractive tax incentives”, and “excellent logistics”.

What about “reasonable bail”?

About David Leopold
Past President American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), In-the-Trenches practicing immigration Attorney, Blogger, Activist, Photographer, Educator, World Traveler. All opinions are my own.

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