Alabama city drops immigration law case against German executive
Authorities in Alabama dropped charges Wednesday against a German Mercedes-Benz executive who was arrested under the state's stringent new illegal-immigration law after a police officer caught him driving without required identification.
Last week, a Tuscaloosa police officer pulled over Detlev Hager, 46, for driving a rental Kia with no license plates. After Hager was only able to produce German identification documents, an unacceptable form of identification under the new law, he was arrested, Police Chief Steve Anderson said.
The Alabama law, considered the nation's strictest, includes a provision requiring police conducting traffic stops to check the residency status of people they suspect of being illegal immigrants.
An associate of Hager's was able to retrieve his passport and a German driver's license, which led to executive being released soon after the arrest. Hager then presented the documents in municipal court and the charges were dropped, Anderson said Wednesday.
Prior to the law going into effect, drivers caught without a driver's license were written a citation and let go, Anderson said. Now, officers must arrest a person if they lack proper identification, turning a routine and quick matter into a more time-consuming one.
"It's going to take up a lot of the limited resources we have to dedicate to problems in the city," Anderson said.
Critics of the law contend that Hager's arrest is indicative of the measure's unintended consequences and could discourage foreign businesses from locating in the state.
Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked portions of the law, including provisions requiring public schools to check the immigration status of students and allowing authorities to file misdemeanor charges against immigrants who are caught without documents proving their legal status.
However, the court let several provisions stand, including the requirement concerning traffic stops and another that makes it a felony for illegal immigrants to enter into "business transactions" with the state, including applying for driver's or business licenses.
The judge in the case issued the ruling after the Justice Department requested that the law be blocked until the court could consider it fully. Federal lawyers contended, as they have when challenging similar laws in other states, that the legislation is preempted by federal immigration statutes.
-- Stephen Ceasar
Photo: A group protests the Alabama immigration law last week at the Statehouse in Montgomery. Credit: Dave Martin / Associated Press