Alabama immigration law catching the wrong people?

Since the implementation of new, tougher immigration laws in Alabama, there have been more than a few changes and plenty of controversy. One of the first things we heard was that crops were rotting in the fields with nobody left to harvest them. In those cases, the argument could still certainly be made that the workers in question were there illegally in most cases, so the system was working as designed. But now there seem to be new situations where the law of unintended consequences has come into play. Officials have now detained two executives from auto manufacturing companies operating in the state. The latest one was from Honda.

To arrest one foreign car-making executive under Alabama’s new tough immigration laws may be regarded as a misfortune; to arrest a second looks like carelessness.

A judge has acted to put a Japanese employee of Honda Motor Company out of his misery by dismissing immigration charges against him, three days after he was booked under Alabama’s new immigration laws that have been billed as the most swingeing in America. Ichiro Yada is one of about 100 Japanese managers of the company on assignment in southern state.

Yada was stopped in Leeds, Alabama, at a checkpoint set up by police to catch unlicenced drivers. He was ticketed on the spot, despite the fact that he showed an international driver’s licence, a valid passport and a US work permit.

The previous case involved the arrest of a representative of Mercedes-Benz under similar circumstances. So while well intentioned, the wide net of the law seems to be catching more fish than anyone anticipated, and it’s going to be embarrassing to have to keep tossing them back.

Mr. Yada was in possession of three different forms of identification which clearly showed that he was in the country and operating legally. But the import of this goes far beyond one employee of one company. The success of bringing foreign automobile manufacturing operations to the American south was widely touted as smart economic policy leading to the stimulation of business growth and all of the badly needed jobs which come with it. Too many incidents like this are going to have corporate leaders thinking twice about bringing their operations to a place where their workers may be unduly harassed.

It may be time for a fresh look at this law to see if it might not have been worded a bit better.