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At Least Alabama's "Papers, Please" Law is an Equal Opportunity Annoyance

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The “papers, please” laws that have been implemented in states like Arizona and Alabama have been slammed by critics for being racist impositions specifically targeted at keeping immigrants from breaching America’s southern borders.
Well, Alabaman officials can now argue they’re not racist, maybe just a tad xenophobic, now that that a German manager at Mercedes Benz was sent to jail for not carrying his driver’s license.

“Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told The Associated Press an officer stopped a rental vehicle for not having a tag Wednesday night and asked the driver for his license. The man only had a German identification card, so he was arrested and taken to police headquarters, Anderson said.

The 46-year-old executive was charged with violating the immigration law for not having proper identification, but he was released after an associate retrieved his passport, visa and German driver's license from the hotel where he was staying, Anderson said.”

As noted by AP, Mercedes-Benz, which is a subsidiary of Daimler AG, has a factory building SUVs near Tuscaloosa. The company, along with other foreign automakers like Honda and Toyota, had set up plants in Alabama after the state courted them with subsidies and tax incentives in hopes of boosting the local economy.

The new HB 56 law, which allows the police to check the citizenship status of anyone it deems suspicious and arrest them if they do not have papers on them, was supposed to help locals regain the jobs lost to illegal immigrants. However, as I noted last week, business owners are now facing a shortage of workers, because Americans are not willing to take up the back-breaking jobs that illegal immigrants, many of whom have fled Alabama for fear of getting arrested, used to do.

Already, other states that are fighting for a share of the foreign investment pie are pouncing on the opportunity by painting Alabama as a place alienating to foreigners, and news of this arrest will not help Alabama’s case.

There is some good news for critics of HB 56. With so much negative publicity having been generated, a hearing has been scheduled for today, and members of Congress will consider testimonials from state officials, community leaders and local business owners, among others.

The US Justice Department has also sued Alabama and others states like Arizona and South Carolina, arguing that the law is unconstitutional. Given its high-profile and controversial nature, it seems like we can expect the case to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

(See also: Are Americans Too Spoiled To Take Low-Paying Jobs?)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.