Mercedes executive arrested under strict US law
A visiting German executive with automaker Mercedes-Benz was arrested in the southern state of Alabama because he was driving without a license and did not have proper identification documents, local officials told AFP Tuesday.
The executive was visiting a $300 million Mercedes-Benz plant the company built near Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1993. The town is some 170 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the state capital Montgomery.
The unidentified manager "was driving a rental car that didnt have the license plate display on it," Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told AFP, describing the incident that happened last week.
The officer pulled over the car and asked for a drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. None was available, but the visitor said his documentation was at the hotel.
Until a few weeks ago this minor infraction would have merited a ticket -- but in late September Alabama approved a state law authorizing police to detain foreigners suspected of being illegal immigrants after committing an infraction.
"He was detained, went to the police department of Tuscaloosa, (and) placed under arrest by the police department because of the immigration law that was passed in September in the state of Alabama," said Anderson.
A federal appeals court in mid-October blocked sections of the Alabama immigration law -- the most severe in the nation -- especially provisions requiring schools to check whether students were in the United States legally.
But it backed the police powers to detain anyone suspected of being a illegal immigrant.
An aide to the German executive rushed to the hotel, picked up the visitor's passport and other documents, and presented them to a judge, who released the manager.
Mercedes-Benz was publicly circumspect about the case.
"This was an unfortunate situation, but police followed their standard procedures," the company said in a statement.
"Mercedes-Benz will take steps to remind and educate our visiting business guests and employees stationed in the US of Alabama's identification requirements," it said.
The employee "is now back in Germany and is not available for comment. We have no further comment on this matter."
In the United States, local police do not ask suspects about their immigration status, as immigration is an issue handled by federal authorities.
Mercedes-Benz's Tuscaloosa factory employs 2,800 workers and turned out more than 125,000 sports utility vehicles and R-class crossover models last year.
© 2011 AFP