DETROIT -- A 46-year-old Mercedes-Benz executive was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last week during a routine traffic stop for not having a proper form of identification, according to news reports.
The arrest prompted national debate over the reach of immigration laws in Alabama and nationwide.
Police stopped Detlev Hager because his rental vehicle did not have updated tags, according to the Associated Press. When asked for his driver's license, Hager could only produce his German identification and was arrested, said Spencer Collier, director of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, a state agency.
Hager "was arrested under Alabama's motor vehicle code for not having a valid driver's license," Collier said.
Alabama's laws regarding immigrants are considered among the toughest in the nation, according to legal experts. Some parts of the law, such as requiring public schools to determine the citizenship status of students and their parents, have been blocked by federal courts.
Hager was released from jail after an associate retrieved his passport, visa and German driver's license from the hotel where he was staying, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told the Associated Press.
Mercedes' plant in Vance, Ala., has been operating since 1993.
Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said in an e-mail that Hager was in Alabama on business.
"This was an unfortunate situation, but police followed their standard procedures," she said. "Mercedes-Benz will take steps to remind and educate our visiting business guests and employees stationed in the U.S. of Alabama's identification requirements."
The arrest prompted an editorial in The New York Times that noted Germany is Alabama's largest international trade partner. Mercedes has announced more than $2 billion in investments 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?" the Times editorial asked. "Is this any way to treat anybody at all?"