Alabama has the unfortunate distinction of being the most racist state in the US. This is where the great Civil Rights battles took place in the 1950s and 1960s. Still, the state proudly flaunts its legacy of bigotry and hate: the state of Alabama flag flying over the the state house in Montgomery mirrors the Confederate Flag - emblem of slavery. So it was no surprise when, earlier this year, Alabama passed the harshest ant-immigration law in the US, targeting Hispanics and Latinos. The new law requires schools to verify the immigration status of students upon enrollment, allows local law enforcement to check the status of people they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented during routine stops and arrests, prohibits renting property to undocumented immigrants, and penalizes companies that employ undocumented immigrants. Additionally, the law makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license, license plate, or business license.
The new law has been a disaster for Alabama's farmers, since Latinos make up the majority of workforce and have now fled to avoid harassment and deportation. Now, another unintended consequence of the law has disturbed the state's relationship with one of its biggest "job creators" - Daimler Benz:
Fierce critics of Alabama's controversial new immigration law -- and one of its staunchest supporters -- are pointing to the arrest of a German Mercedes-Benz executive last week to make their case.
Police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pulled the man over because of a problem with the tag on the rental car he was driving, and then detained him when he didn't have proper identification on hand, according to Alabama's homeland security director.
Mercedes-Benz issued a statement describing the arrest as "an unfortunate situation," but provided few details.
The Mercedes executive was eventually able to produce the necessary papers and identification and was released. The over-zealous Tuscaloosa police officer was reprimanded for his failure to understand the basis of the new law: it is meant to target poor, dark-skinned adults and children, not prosperous -looking white people.
Daimler is more than willing to put up with these occasional displays of intolerance in Alabama. After all, it located its plant in Tuscaloosa to circumvent the labor unions. It pays its workforce in Alabama a fraction of what it must pay its German workers, with far fewer benefits. Best of all, Alabama is a "hire at will" state, meaning Daimler can fire and lay off workers at any time without cause.