Editorials Call for “Papers, Please” Law Repeal in Light of Mercedes Exec’s Arrest and Groundswell of Opposition
Yesterday, 3400 people joined Members of Congress and state civic, civil rights, and religious leaders at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham to protest Alabama’s Draconian, “papers, please” anti-immigrant law and to support the effort to repeal the legislation. As the Birmingham News reported, “The racially and ethnically diverse crowd was enthusiastic, occasionally breaking into the chant ‘Who is Alabama? We are Alabama’ in English and Spanish. A call for applause from people coming from different cities in Alabama showed participation from across the state.”
As grassroots opposition to the law swells and as Alabama’s reputation is dragged back in an intolerant direction, the news continues to spread about the arrest of a Mercedes executive from Germany under the anti-immigrant law. The arrest story confirms the fear of many that the law will result in economic damage to Alabama, placing a “Keep Out” sign for foreign and out-of-state business investment in addition to immigrant populations. A range of national and in-state editorials are making this point, noting that the only solution is to repeal the law and to try and salvage the state’s reputation along with its bottom line.
The New York Times editorialized, “The self-inflicted wounds from Alabama’s most-abusive-in-the-nation immigration law just keep on coming. Last week, a manager for Mercedes-Benz, visiting from Germany, was pulled over in his rental car by a police officer in Tuscaloosa near where a Mercedes plant builds sport-utility vehicles. The manager didn’t have his driver’s license with him, and only a few months ago he just would have been given a ticket. But Alabama’s new law, now in effect, demands tougher action against suspected illegal immigrants. The manager was arrested and taken to police headquarters. Germany is Alabama’s largest international trading partner, and Mercedes, a unit of Daimler, recently announced more than $2 billion in new investment there through 2014. Is this any way to treat a visitor, especially one representing a company that could just as easily invest in some other low-wage state? Is this any way to treat anybody at all?”
The Birmingham News editorialized, “the arrest is another embarrassment for Alabama over its oppressive immigration law. Under the law, people are required to show their papers to keep from being arrested — not simply ticketed. This is a sad development that should appall all freedom-loving people. It also is appalling to economic development officials who know that other states will use Alabama’s law to get an edge in industry recruiting. Already, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, which was to build a $100 million plant in Thomasville, is “having second thoughts” because of the law, according to David Bronner, chief of the Retirement Systems of Alabama. Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office, disagrees, but it should be pointed out he voted in favor of the law as a state representative. No doubt, the story of the Mercedes official’s arrest will quickly make the industry recruiting rounds. It will be used by others to smack-talk Alabama as a xenophobic state unlikely to welcome foreigners. Whether true, it doesn’t matter. That’s the atmosphere this immigration law has created. ‘We didn’t have to be the poster child,’ Bronner told The News. ‘Not only do you get all the abuse, you lose the industry and you get to pay the big legal fees. For what?’ Yes. For what? So the state could make certain a Mercedes manager never leaves his hotel room without proper papers?”
The Tuscaloosa News editorialized, “Perhaps it can be argued that the arrest of a Mercedes-Benz manager in Tuscaloosa under the state’s harsh immigration law is an unintended consequence, but certainly this sort of thing was foreseen. As Republicans in the state Legislature consider changing the law, the best option would be to scrap it altogether — and make that the centerpiece of their jobs plan. The immigration law is becoming the greatest threat to the state’s economy and job creation, overshadowing even the record-setting bankruptcy of Jefferson County. Global corporations must be asking themselves whether their international employees — those with legal work permits — are welcome in Alabama… Last week, it was reported that a Chinese company is having second thoughts about a $100 million plant announced for Thomasville, in West Alabama’s economically depressed Black Belt. They feel they aren’t welcome because of the immigration law. ‘They have expressed their concerns to me on numerous occasions,’ said David Bronner, chairman and CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama. Is that a misunderstanding? Perhaps, but if it is the perception, we ought to treat it as a reality…The state has always tilted toward business interests, with lax environmental regulation, low taxes and right-to-work laws that discourage unions. The GOP plan includes pieces to tilt the balance even further with corporate welfare give-aways like tax credits, even as money is cut from school budgets and social services. But if the Legislature really wants to succeed in creating a welcoming environment for businesses, it should start with repealing the immigration law that puts their executives in jail and sends their workers heading for the state line.”
The Decatur Daily editorialized, “The drafters of the law were targeting a stereotype, not humans. They could not dismiss their stereotypes as long as those suffering from the law were Hispanic. Throw in a wealthy Caucasian from Germany, though, and the law’s ugliness became apparent. House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, created a vicious and unworkable law. It is time for the people of Alabama to renounce the law and demand its repeal.”