According to some supporters of Alabama’s worst-in-the-nation immigration law – figures such as State Senator Scott Beason, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL), U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), anti-immigrant leader Mark Krikorian, and immigration law architect and current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) – the state’s “papers, please” anti-immigration law is working exactly as they intended. Any damage to the state’s bottom line and reputation are mere bumps in the road on the way to creating a climate of fear and hostility aimed at forcing the entire immigrant community from the state.
However, we wonder if these “leaders” are singing the same tune after their prized law resulted in the arrest of a German executive from Mercedes-Benz, the crown jewel of Alabama’s efforts to attract international businesses? As the Associated Press highlights, Tuscaloosa police arrested the Mercedes executive on Friday, charging him under the state’s “papers, please” law for not having proper identification. Rather than an egregious mistake on the part of police, Alabama’s homeland security director, Spencer Collier said:
“It sounds like the officer followed the statute correctly.”
Friday’s arrest – and the extreme anti-immigrant law itself – have complicated Alabama’s efforts to portray itself as a welcoming place for foreign companies. In the past, only when Alabama rejected intolerance and racial division and stepped away from its Civil Rights era reputation, did the state’s standing improve sufficiently on the world stage and enable it to attract international companies. As the Associated Press noted last month, “In 1993, a few months after state officials quit flying the secessionist Confederate Civil War battle flag on the Capitol dome, Mercedes selected Alabama for an assembly plant. Then came Honda, Toyota and Hyundai, and many auto suppliers.” Now, David Bronner, the CEO of the state pension system and a man who helped to recruit those plants, fears Alabama’s reputation has been sullied again, harming its ability to attract foreign investment. Said Bronner, “You are giving the image, whether it’s valid or not, that you don’t like foreigners, period.”
As the Decatur Daily editorialized after Friday’s arrest:
The drafters of the law were targeting a stereotype, not humans. They could not dismiss their stereotypes as long as those suffering from the law were Hispanic. Throw in a wealthy Caucasian from Germany, though, and the law’s ugliness became apparent. House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, created a vicious and unworkable law. It is time for the people of Alabama to renounce the law and demand its repeal.