Alabama Immigration Law Shows More Unintended Consequences After Arrest of German Businessman

Alabama’s controversial immigration law, passed earlier this year, invited yet more scrutiny several weeks ago when police arrested a German businessman. Police pulled the man over just outside Tuscaloosa on November 16. He was driving a rental car that did not have tags, and he only had a German ID. Since Alabama’s law requires police to investigate the immigration status of people involved in traffic stops, they arrested him. The man turned out to be a Mercedes-Benz executive visiting the company’s 3,400-employee plant in Tuscaloosa.

The Mercedes-Benz plant is one of Alabama’s great success stories of the past few decades. The company’s 1993 decision to open the Tuscaloosa facility paved the way for similar plants by Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, according to Bloomberg News. Mercedes-Benz itself described the arrest as “unfortunate” and declined additional comment. The incident has fed a growing sense among Alabama business leaders, some would say finally, that the law does more harm than good for the state’s economy.

In other parts of the state, leaders are already sensing that the law is driving away not only workers, but investors and foreign employers. In March of this year, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, a Chinese manufacturer, announced its intention to build a $100 million factory, employing at least 300 people, in Thomasville, Alabama. The company has now hinted that it will consider other offers elsewhere, which has Thomasville’s mayor scrambling to do damage control. Other states are even trying to woo Mercedes-Benz and other large companies away from Alabama.

State leaders claim they intended the law to deter undocumented workers and increase the number of available jobs for unemployed Alabamans. Alabama is already very low on the national scale of economic strength and employment rates, and the new law has shown no signs of improving that. Fields of crops lay rotting because the people with experience working those fields either stayed away for fear of arrest or fled the state entirely. Small businesses in small towns and big cities alike across the state told a New York Times reporter that business was significantly down as their regular customers vanished.

It is tempting to react cynically to this story, in the sense that the problems caused by this law in Alabama did not come to prominence for many until a European businessman got arrested. This story has a much bigger, more important lesson, however, which is the critical importance of both foreign workers and foreign investors to a state’s economy and reputation. Perhaps Alabama legislators thought driving away undocumented immigrant labor would help the state’s economy by freeing up jobs for others, but this has not been the result. No one else is stepping in to do the field labor jobs left behind, and it is devastating whole regions. Now foreign companies may be reconsidering their relationship with the state, with dire consequences for people who currently have jobs. As other states, possibly including Ohio, continue to consider their own legislation modeled after that in Alabama, businesses should take notice.

Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States in understanding the often complex processes involved. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or at (800) 625-3404.

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