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Alabama Arrest of German Mercedes-Benz executive under immigration law underscores how little history changes

LatinaLista — The fallout from Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration bill H.B. 56 just keeps raining down.

Police say a German executive with Mercedes-Benz is free after being arrested under Alabama's strict new law targeting illegal immigrants.

Last Friday, one of the latest consequences of the legislation, and one that had some in the “Heart of Dixie” suffer cardiac arrest, was when a German executive, who worked at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, was pulled over by police and arrested for not having his driver’s license.

The 46-year-old executive was charged with violating the immigration law for not having proper identification, but he was released after an associate retrieved his passport, visa and German driver’s license from the hotel where he was staying, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson said.

The state’s politicians were beside themselves over the incident. Wonder if they’ll feel the same embarrassment over a joint amicus brief filed today by the National Education Association, the Alabama Education Association, and the National School Boards Association over the bill’s requirement for schools to verify that newly enrolling students are in the country legally and, if not, their names will be identified as undocumented in school reports to the state.

Chances are, probably not.

It’s one thing to be embarrassed by the law in front of a global investor who brought jobs and industry to the state and quite another to feel any kind of embarrassment inflicted by a bunch of educators on behalf of children.

It’s not like educators bring jobs to the state — they’re only educating the state’s future workforce and entrepreneurs in whose hands the future of the state’s economy will rest.

But that’s light-years away — at least in the small minds of the legislators who crafted this cruel piece of legislation.

As the educators explained in a press release about why they jointly filed the amicus brief:

“Our public schools were created with the promise that all students who walk through their doors would be educated, regardless of the child’s national origin or the economic status of the parents,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Unfortunately, H.B. 56 is having a chilling effect – children have literally vanished from Alabama classrooms. School employees are hired to help students learn, not check their immigration status. What students need most to succeed is an education and this law gets in the way of that.”

“The message ‘You’re not welcome here’ harks back to another period in history when children were denied the right to an education – a period America should never have to revisit,” van Roekel said. “Nobody wins when a state law pushes children out of our public schools and into the shadows of society. We will not rest until this law is overturned.”

The state politicians won’t pay attention to the educators but I wonder how much they would pay attention to executives at Mercedes-Benz and other businesses who see this piece of legislation as an unnecessary act to intimidate, spread fear and take away any kind of rights among a segment of Alabama’s population that is in the minority and the most vulnerable.

For the German executives, it should be a deja-vu moment from their history. A history that the world has studied and learned the one lesson that could have stopped the persecution of defenseless people — speaking up.

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