Alabama City Drops Immigration Charge Against Mercedez-Benz Executive

Authorities from the Alabama city of Tuscaloosa have dismissed a charge against a Mercedez-Benz executive who had traveled there from Germany on business, and found himself caught in the web of the state’s immigration laws.

The executive was arrested under Alabama's new crackdown on illegal immigration after a police officer caught him driving without identification required by the law.

While Tuscaloosa police arrested the man last week for not having proper citizenship documents while driving a rental car in the city, city attorney Tim Nunnally said in an email the charge was dismissed after the man later provided the documents in municipal court.

Police identified the man as Detlev Hager, 46. The company said he was in Alabama on business at the time but declined further comment.

The arrest drew widespread attention because the German automaker is one of the state's leading employers, and its decision to build its first U.S. assembly plant in Alabama in 1993 provided the spark that helped lead to the state's large automotive industry, which includes foreign manufacturers Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.

Republicans who support the immigration law say it will help create jobs for legal Alabama residents by driving away undocumented immigrants, but some business leaders and critics of the law contend similar arrests could hurt economic development in the state by making it a less-attractive location for foreign companies.

One newspaper cited the executive's arrest in urging Mercedes to move to Missouri from Alabama.

"Our state has many advantages over Alabama. We are the Show-Me State, not the `Show me your papers' state,"' the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in an editorial.

The man's arrest caused a state inquiry to the city prompted by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the law, but his office refused to say how Bentley knew the man had been detained. Bentley is from Tuscaloosa, where he practiced medicine for years.

Meanwhile, a state lawmaker says he sponsored Alabama's tough new immigration law in part to encourage undocumented immigrants to leave the state.

The comments by Micky Hammon, a Republican state representative from Decatur, came Wednesday as he testified during a federal court hearing on a lawsuit to stop Alabama officials from using the law to prevent immigrants from renewing required permits on their manufactured homes.

Two Elmore County immigrants are challenging a section of the law that prohibits most contracts where one party is undocumented. Civil rights groups criticize the law on several points, including that it forces immigrants to leave Alabama.

The plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to issue an order preventing state officials from refusing to renew the permits.

It's unclear when Thompson might rule.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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