A Japanese man temporarily working at Honda's car factory in east Alabama became the second foreign auto worker charged under the state's law on illegal immigration, the company said Wednesday.
The employee at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Talladega County received a ticket but wasn't taken into custody, unlike a Mercedes-Benz manager who was previously arrested in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Yet Republican lawmakers in Alabama cast doubt on whether the citation was actually made under the immigration law, saying it did not seem to match the law's requirements.
Philip Bryan, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said there is "no instance or violation" under the new law that calls for writing someone a ticket.
"Therefore, regardless of human error, it is not legally possible for anyone ever to be written a ticket if they violate the immigration law," Bryan said in an email to The Associated Press. "None."
It wasn't clear where the Honda worker was stopped. But a person with knowledge of the case said the man was ticketed at a routine roadblock set up by police even though he had a valid Japanese passport and an international driver's license. The person wasn't authorized to release the information and asked not to be identified.
Parts of the law have been blocked by federal courts in response to lawsuits by the Obama administration, immigrant rights groups and others. Police are still required to ask for driver's licenses as proof of citizenship during routine traffic stops.
The law states that foreigners are presumed to be in the country legally if they have forms of identification including a valid passport, so it is unclear why the man would have been ticketed under the law if he had a passport. State Homeland Security officials, who are monitoring enforcement of the law, said they were seeking details on the case.
On Nov. 16, a German manager with Mercedes-Benz was arrested under the law for not having a driver's license with him while driving a rental car. Tuscaloosa city attorney Tim Nunnally said the charge was dismissed after the man provided the documents in municipal court.
Mercedes-Benz opened the door for Alabama's multibillion dollar automobile industry with its decision to build its first U.S. assembly plant about 40 miles west of Birmingham in 1993. Honda has been building cars and minivans for a decade about 45 miles east of Birmingham in Lincoln, where it has a 3.5 million-square-foot plant, and Hyundai and Toyota also have factories in the state.
While some industrial recruiters are worried fallout from the law may harm Alabama's image, development leader Ron Scott said he was unaware of any effect on ongoing recruitment efforts.
Scott said he's getting more and more questions about the law and its effects on the state, though.
"Most of the calls I've gotten are about the possible impact on the state from local economic developers," said Scott, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama.