Alabama Police Arrest Mercedes Executive for not Having Proper ID

Via the AP:  Mercedes plant manager arrested over Ala. immigration law

Police say a German executive with Mercedes-Benz is free after being arrested under Alabama’s strict new law targeting illegal immigrants.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson tells The Associated Press an officer stopped a rental vehicle for not having a tag on Wednesday. Anderson says the man only had a German identification card, so he was arrested and taken to police headquarters.

The chief says the 46-year-old was charged with not having proper identification. He was released after an associate retrieved his passport, visa and German driver’s license from his hotel.

Lovely.  No doubt this will be great for foreign investment in Alabama.

And you have to love the irony, given the old stereotype:  a German is arrested for not having his papers yet not in a movie about Nazi Germany, but rather in contemporary Tuscaloosa, AL.

More from WaPo: Mercedes-Benz manager from Germany arrested under Alabama’s strict new immigration law

The law — parts of which were put on hold amid legal challenges — requires that police check citizenship status during traffic stops and take anyone who doesn’t have proper identification to a magistrate. Anderson said that’s what was done, but someone in the same situation wouldn’t have been arrested before the law took effect.


Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said the man is from Germany and was visiting Alabama on business. The company’s first U.S. assembly plant is located just east of Tuscaloosa.

Welcome to America and our fine state!

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Tim says:

    Same thing happened to us in Germany. You think senior executive would be smarter than that…

  2. MaxShelby says:


    This is indefensible. You may spin to your heart’s content the fact remains that this was a HUGE misstep and it most assuredly will have big ripples in future foreign corporate recruitment efforts.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    The company’s first U.S. assembly plant is located just east of Tuscaloosa.

    First and, perhaps, last…

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Obviously the cops have not been properly trained. This was not supposed to be about rich white men, it was intended as a means to harass and demean Hispanics. I’m sure the apologies will be effusive. And then they’ll get back to the business of treating Mexicans like sh-t.

  5. Boyd says:

    @michael reynolds: Sure, since this is evidence that the police in Alabama are indeed enforcing the law against rich white men, that can only reinforce the reality that this law will only be used to harass brown men. We’re just too restricted by objectivity and facts to actually see the truth!

    Yeah, go with that.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Over here the legislature.

    Over there the police.

    See how they aren’t the same? See how the intent of the legislators can be different than that of decent cops?

  7. Boyd says:

    @michael reynolds: This is hilarious. I read Steven’s post in Google Reader and I told my wife that someone would comment that this was evidence that this law would only be used to harass brown men. I bring up the post on OTB to read the comments, and lo and behold, there you are.

    So after I responded, I told her that no matter what was in the hearts of the legislators when they wrote and voted for this bill (which I can discern, but I can see you have those magic glasses that allow you to see into their souls), the effect is what matters. And sure as the world, you’re here almost immediately telling us what you see with those magic glasses (those not in the know undoubtedly think they’re sunglasses, but we know better, don’t we?).

    Okay, snarkiness and kidding around with my commie pinko buddy aside (okay, I’m really done with the kidding now), the predictions were precisely what you indicated in your first comment: that the law would only be used to oppress Hispanics. Then we get a report showing that you’re wrong, at least in this instance, and you proclaim that you’re still right, it’s just those honorable policemen aren’t playing along with the plan, but that’s gonna get fixed and they’ll get back to beating on Mexicans, blah, blah, blah.

    So even when there’s evidence that you’re wrong, you use it as proof that you’re right.

    Oh, what a nimble mind you have there!

  8. Boyd says:

    Correction: “…which I can’t discern…”

  9. Herb says:

    @Boyd: “that the law would only be used to oppress Hispanics.”

    I don’t think any opponent of this law was worried that it would only be used to “oppress” Hispanics. Indeed, the principle objection is that this draconian approach would have a bevy of unintended consequences, from crops rotting in fields to German businessmen getting arrested for leaving his passport at his hotel.

    In other words, pointing at this sad example and saying, “See, it’s not just for the Mexicans” doesn’t really help your case. It’s nice that the Tuscaloosa police are color-blind in enforcing the law…but c’mon, man. This only reinforces the idea that this law is crap.

  10. Boyd says:

    @Herb: First off, Herb, it’s not “my” case, and you won’t get an argument from me about unintended consequences, since that’s one of the results of every law ever written. Nor will you hear from me that this law is good policy, nor that it is well-written for its stated purposes.

    I don’t think any opponent of this law was worried that it would only be used to “oppress” Hispanics. Indeed, the principle objection is that this draconian approach would have a bevy of unintended consequences, from crops rotting in fields to German businessmen getting arrested for leaving his passport at his hotel.

    I disagree. While I don’t have (and can’t develop, sorry) statistics to support my opinion, it’s certainly my recollection that Every. Single. Time. I hear of a proposed federal or state law or local ordinance that addresses illegal immigration, I also hear the wails of how the proposal is just a new way to violate the civil rights of Hispanics, that every brown-skinned man walking down the street will be constantly stopped and harassed by the police, that the proposal is just a veneer of objectivity to cover a racist policy.

    And then when we see evidence that the law is being applied in an objective, non-racist manner, someone speaks up dismiss the evidence (as Michael did), and others will go so far as to pursue some tortured logic to claim that it’s actually proof that the policy is RACIST!!1!

  11. waltm says:

    In the FWIW category, a report of recent polling of Alabamians and the immigration law.

    To be short, 21% want repeal, 35% revision, 35% left as is. There is a bill prefiled to repeal the law, but no stampede to the microphones to endorse it by our elected ones.

  12. Vast Variety says:

    In my best fake German Accent “Papers Please!”

    First the law screws over farmers who rely on migrant workers because Americans simply won’t do the jobs and now we threaten foreign investment dollars. How fun.

  13. John Burgess says:

    I sincerely doubt that this will have any effect on foreign investment in Alabama. The exec was at fault for not having ID, at least in the form of a drivers license. Is there any place (outside the UK) that does not require that the license be in the possession of the driver?

    [I am aware that some US states will issue a provisional ticket to a driver without his license in his current, physical possession. The ticket will be dropped if he presents it within a set time period. The supposition, though, is that you have your license with you while you’re driving a car.]

  14. @John Burgess: The press accounts I have read state that he was not arrested for failure to have a license (which, I believe, would normally result in a ticket) but rather he was specifically arrested for failure to be able to provide for his immigration/citizenship status.

    Do I think that this one incident will halt investment in the state? No. Do I think the current anti-foreign attitudes in the state will figure into investment decisions. Yes, I think it is quote possible. This state already has a lot going against in in terms of attracting investment (our public schools, for example as well as infrastructural issues) and doesn’t need more reasons to cause investors to reconsider spending money here.

  15. Herb says:


    “it’s not “my” case”

    Fair enough. I’ll amend that to “the case,” with no inexact usage of pronoun intended or implied.

    As for the racism stuff, we all know that xenophobia and anti-Hispanic prejudice is at the root of many of these local anti-immigrant laws. All efforts at plausible denial are charming, but they fool nobody.

    After all, here we have a case where, as you acknowledge, “the law is being applied in an objective, non-racist manner” and yet…….it snared a non-immigrant who was in this country legally.

    You can blame that on the poor wording of the law if you wish, but I prefer to blame the xenophobia that inspired it.

  16. michael reynolds says:


    Your anecdote is delightful.

    Now, go back and look at my original comment. Do you see the snarky remark about the cops not being properly trained? Do you see the numerous references to the intention of the law? Do you see that the intention of the lawmakers can be different from the actions of the cops? Do you see how I can intuit the first by virtue of familiarity with the debate so I wasn’t required to use my magic glasses? Do you think you can discover the line between legislative intention and practice in the field? And do you get that B in this case does not necessarily follow strictly from A?

    You should understand how intention can go astray in practice. You intended to discover a comment that supported your humorous preconception, you found a comment that didn’t, so the rest of what you said was a sort of drunken darts game of snark with missiles aimed at a bulls-eye hitting the wall.

  17. @John Burgess: Indeed, looking back at the second linked story:

    “If it were not for the immigration law, a person without a license in their possession wouldn’t be arrested like this,” he said. Previously, drivers who lacked licenses received a ticket and a court summons, the police chief said.

  18. @Boyd: In fairness, the law was clearly written to target Mexican immigrants in the state without documentation. There really is no doubt that this was the case (as was the case in AZ, GA and NV).

    One can make the case the arrest of the German individual underscores this, but his arrest clearly registered as an “oops” vis-a-vis the target of the law.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    Someone over at the Post comments pointed out the possibility of this arrest being on this individual’s record for life. (Which would seem to have ramifications on his getting let back into this country again, period.) Any idea if this is true?

    Given the immortality of databases and the willingness of agencies, governmental and otherwise, to reference and pass them around without cross-checking the data, this looks like another law that should be amended, toute suite.

  20. grumpy realist says:


  21. @grumpy realist: Looks like you accidentally hit the “del” tag button in the toolbar somehow.

    I fixed it.

  22. Raul says:

    Well he car had no plates. The guy had no ID. What do you want , idiot!

  23. Raul says:

    Well, I ain’t gonna cry fro not buying a Mercedes. I can barely pay for my gas.

  24. @Raul: Except that he did have ID, just not proof of citizenship/immigration status. That was what he was arrested for (and not for the lack of plates, either).