Alabama's desire to keep out illegal immigrants may be running counter to its desire to attract international automakers.
Under the state's new immigration policy, which requires anyone stopped by police to show proper identification, a German executive with Mercedes Benz was arrested this weekend.
It played out like a scene sounds like it could come from a World War II Gestapo movie: 46-year-old Detlev Hager was driving down the road in a rental car, when a police officer noticed something amiss with the car – initial reports say it was missing registration tags, but Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson insists the car was missing license plates. The officer pulled Hager over, and asked for his papers.
All Hager could produce was his German identification. His passport, which shows he was legally in the country on a visa, was back at his hotel room.
Hager was arrested and charged under the immigration law for not having the proper paperwork. He was released on his own recognizance after a colleague went back to his hotel room and retrieved his paperwork. He has a court date set in the next few weeks to determine his ultimate punishment.
The arrest has caught national attention to Alabama's law, which could be interpreted to require paperwork to prove immigration status for things like getting flu shots.
"I'm not surprised at the amount of attention this has drawn," Anderson said. "I expected it would take something like this to get attention."
Since the law was enacted in October, 66 people have been arrested in Tuscaloosa alone, Anderson said. He's unsure if any of those arrested were actually illegal immigrants: 33 were black males, 9 black females, 16 were Hispanic males, 1 Hispanic female, 3 were white males and 4 were white females.
Slade Blackwell, an Alabama state senator, told the New York Times that the law needs to be modified.
"The longer the bill has been out, the more unintended consequences we have found," he told the paper. "All of us realize we need to change it."
Mercedes' first full year of production in Alabama was in 1998, when it produced 68,800 vehicles. It was the first automaker to take a gamble on producing cars in the southern state, which had no history of auto production but threw tons of money at Mercedes to set up shop there.
In 1993, the state gave Mercedes tax incentives worth $253 million, or about $169,000 per job, to open that factory, according to the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association.
Now Alabama has two more auto assembly plants, also run by foreign automakers Honda and Hyundai. Toyota and International Diesel produce engines in the state. There are more than 90 automotive suppliers in Alabama that serve either Hyundai, Honda or Mercedes.
Which means Alabama gets its fair share of foreign business travelers.
Competition for foreign autos investment is intense – jobs at auto plants are a boon for any state and local government that can convince an automaker to build a plant in their region.
The auto industry accounts for 6.8% of Alabama's labor force, according to a report by the Center for Automotive Research. For comparison, the industry accounts for 4.4% of the nation's workforce. In Michigan, it's 21.8% of the workforce.
States often throw huge tax incentives at auto companies to get these jobs. States like them because they pay high wages to people who often don't have college degrees, the automakers take very good care of their employees and the plants attract scads of suppliers which also pay solid wages. People who work at the plants spend money at local restaurants, shops and even car dealerships.
The arrest "highlights the disastrous consequences of profiling, as well as the potential threat to foreign investment in the state that enacts and enforces laws that lead to arrests of anyone who doesn't speak, act or look in a 'non-suspicious manner,'" Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told FoxNews.com.
Courtesy of Autos Aol
Deportations Under New U.S. Policy Are Inconsistent
By Julia Preston
A new Obama administration policy to avoid deportations of illegal immigrants who are not criminals has been applied very unevenly across the country and has led to vast confusion both in immigrant communities and among agents charged with carrying it out.
Since June, when the policy was unveiled, frustrated lawyers and advocates have seen a steady march of deportations of immigrants with no criminal record and with extensive roots in the United States, who seemed to fit the administration’s profile of those who should be allowed to remain.
But at the same time, in other cases, immigrants on the brink of expulsion saw their deportations halted at the last minute, sometimes after public protests. In some instances, immigration prosecutors acted, with no prodding from advocates, to abandon deportations of immigrants with strong ties to this country whose only violation was their illegal status.
For President Obama, the political stakes in the new policy are high. White House officials have concluded that there is no chance before next year’s presidential election to pass the immigration overhaul that Mr. Obama supports, which would include paths to legal status for illegal immigrants. But immigration authorities have sustained a fast pace of deportations, removing nearly 400,000 foreigners in each of the last three years.
With Latino communities taking the brunt of those deportations, Latino voters are increasingly disappointed with Mr. Obama. White House officials hope the new policy will ease some of the pressure on Latinos, by steering enforcement toward gang members and convicts and away from students, soldiers and families of American citizens.
In a June 17 memorandum, John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, laid out more than two dozen factors that its agents and lawyers should weigh when deciding whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion to dismiss a deportation. The memo called for “particular care and consideration” for veterans and active-duty troops, elderly immigrants and minors, and those brought here illegally as children.
In August, the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, announced additional measures to put Mr. Morton’s guidelines into effect, including a review of all deportation cases — about 300,000 — currently in the immigration courts, with the aim of closing cases that do not meet the administration’s priorities.
In a report released Wednesday, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council collected 252 cases from lawyers across the country who had asked Mr. Morton’s agency, known as ICE, to exercise prosecutorial discretion to spare immigrants from deportation. “The overwhelming conclusion is that most ICE offices have not changed their practices since the issuance of these new directives,” the report found.
“This is a classic example of leadership saying one thing and the rank and file doing another,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the lawyers association. The report found that training for immigration officers on the new guidelines had been lacking.
Officials at the Homeland Security Department acknowledge the policy’s slow start. Mr. Morton’s June guidelines were followed by a three-month lull, when resistance grew among agents in the field. In late September, Ms. Napolitano and Mr. Morton went on the offensive to press the policy, and since then Mr. Morton has been on the road inaugurating training programs.
“Like any major change in enforcement policy, this is a work in progress,” Mr. Morton said by telephone from Miami, where he was joining in a training session. “I have been handling much of the initial explanation myself, because I feel so strongly about it.”
Officials say they need time to transform federal agencies accustomed to cut-and-dried immigration enforcement, with any illegal immigrant a target for deportation. Ms. Napolitano says immigration agents must become more like other police officers, using “sound prosecutorial practice” to follow priorities. Those priorities are to deport convicted criminals, serial violators of immigration law and recent border crossers, officials said.
The priorities did not apply for Neida Lavayen, 46, an American citizen in Elizabeth, N.J. After a three-year courtship, she had planned on Sept. 23 to marry Rubén Quinteros, an illegal immigrant from Uruguay. Mr. Quinteros, 43, had come legally to the United States, then stayed past his time limit. But once he and Ms. Lavayen married, he would be eligible for a permanent resident’s green card as the spouse of a citizen.
Eight days before the wedding, Mr. Quinteros was arrested by immigration agents. His lawyer, Heather Benno, argued that he should benefit from prosecutorial discretion, since he was days away from resolving his immigration status. He had no criminal record, had paid taxes and had provided vital support for his fiancée, who suffered domestic abuse in her first marriage.
Ms. Benno’s motions were denied. Ms. Lavayen found a pastor to marry the couple in the detention center, but immigration agents declined to release Mr. Quinteros for a few hours so he could go with Ms. Lavayen to get the marriage license, since registrars would not issue one without him. They were not able to marry, and Mr. Quinteros was deported Oct. 27.
“I never thought I would fall in love again and have dreams again and live such a beautiful romance,” Ms. Lavayen said in a telephone conversation, pausing often to cry. “How did my country take away my happiness?”
By contrast, a student from Germany received good news that he had not asked for. Manuel Bartsch, now 24, was brought to the United States when he was 10 years old, then remained without documents. He stuck to his studies and is now nearing graduation from a private university in Ohio. After a legal fight in 2006, the immigration agency suspended Mr. Bartsch’s deportation, said his lawyer, David Leopold. On Nov. 3, the agency surprised Mr. Bartsch by terminating his deportation case entirely.
Like others whose deportations are canceled under the new policy, Mr. Bartsch will remain in limbo without any positive immigration status, Mr. Leopold said. But he will be able to apply for a work permit, an identity document that can open many doors.
“Hats off to ICE in the field for following the directives,” Mr. Leopold said.
Outspoken resistance to the policy has come from Chris Crane, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ union local that represents ICE deportation agents. In testimony last month before the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Crane said that Mr. Morton’s guidelines were too complex and “cannot be effectively applied in the field.”
Rather than adding flexibility, Mr. Crane said, the guidelines “take away officers’ discretion and establish a system that mandates that the nation’s most fundamental immigration laws are not enforced.”
Still, uncertainty about the policy among agents appeared more widespread than outright rejection did. That was the experience of Shamir Ali, a 24-year-old student born in Bangladesh, who was detained Oct. 19 when the police raided a Miami car rental agency where he worked, looking for someone else. Mr. Ali seemed to fit within the discretion guidelines: he had no criminal record and had been brought by his parents to the United States when he was 7. But immigration agents denied his first requests to be spared from deportation.
Then student groups staged protests on Mr. Ali’s behalf in eight cities. On Oct. 28, agents freed Mr. Ali on an order of supervision, also allowing him to apply for a work permit. For Mr. Ali, like Mr. Bartsch, that permit would be life-changing, since it would allow him to obtain a driver’s license and to enroll at resident rates in a state college.
Mr. Ali said he felt deeply grateful to the immigration agency. But he wondered: “If I didn’t have all that support, what would have happened to me