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Mercedes exec arrested under Alabama immigration law
Photo: DPA

Mercedes exec arrested under Alabama immigration law

Published: 21 Nov 2011 11:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Nov 2011 11:03 GMT+01:00

Police in Alabama last week arrested and briefly held a visiting Mercedes-Benz executive from Germany for not having a drivers license, drawing attention to the US state's controversial new immigration law.

According to the Associated Press, the unnamed 46-year-old manager was only able to present a German identity card when pulled over by Tuscaloosa police last Wednesday. He was subsequently arrested and charged with not having proper identification as required by Alabama’s new immigration law, which has been criticised as being excessively draconian.

Eventually, a colleague was able to find the man’s passport, visa and drivers licence at his hotel and took it to police, who subsequently released the Daimler executive, the Associated Press reported.

Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters in Germany confirmed the arrest to The Local, but declined to comment further, directing all questions to its US subsidiary, which was not available on Monday morning.

"We heard that he didn’t have a drivers licence but we don’t have any more information right now," a spokeswoman told The Local.

The incident even apparently drew in Alabama’s governor, who called the authorities to determine what had happened, although his office denied he had exerted any pressure on police.

The executive was caught up in the controversy surrounding an Alabama law passed in June, which is widely considered to be the strictest in America. Most of the law, which requires police to verify someone’s immigration status if officers have a “reasonable suspicion” he or she could be in the United States illegally, has been upheld by courts so far, despite challenges by civil liberties advocates.

Mercedes-Benz has built cars at a plant near Tuscaloosa since 1993 and in 2000 invested $600 million (€445 million) in an expansion of the facility. According to the company, the plant provides more than 22,000 jobs and is Alabama’s largest exporter, sending $1 billion (€743 million) in exports throughout the world.

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Your comments about this article

12:26 November 21, 2011 by pepsionice
Several things are left out of this story. Why the cops stopped him? Because no tag on the rear of the car.....either it fell off or it was stolen. The cops went to the next step to establish his ID, and no....the German ID card won't work in the US (or for that matter in 100 other countries, including Canada). The cops could have been nice about this deal and simply driven him to the hotel but they aren't the same type of cops that you'd find in Germany (who would have done it that way).

I'm guessing the governor will personally call the guy today and offer up an apology and perhaps even a meal at the governor's mansion.

As for the immigration law? Well....it never would have been pushed if the federal government had been performing the requirements of the national law. The sad thing is that Alabama will end up with various issues because of this stupid state law. And I guess the 300k Germans who visit America each year....will likely skip Alabama as their number one tourist spot.
12:26 November 21, 2011 by ChrisRea
What? A German driving an expensive Mercedes? Of course it is highly probable that he is an illegal immigrant.
12:45 November 21, 2011 by wood artist
This is a classic case of the "law of unintended consequences." The folks in Alabama don't like the way the US federal government approaches immigration, so, contrary to the US Constitution, they decided to create their own program. While the courts are deciding how legal that is (it's not, but it takes some time to make that clear) the Alabama folks are doing their own thing.

Personally I doubt there are too many Hispanics (the target of the law) that speak German, in Alabama you just never know. Basically most cops everywhere else (except Arizona) would have ignored the whole situation, or let the guy off with a warning. However...well, yeah.

I suspect the Feds will be calling the Alabama governor, suggesting that they're meddling in foreign policy and making it clear that stuff like this is unacceptable, and no state law can change it. I'm sorry this gentleman ran afoul of America's Dumbest.

wa
12:57 November 21, 2011 by twisted
My recommendation would be for Mercedes to relocate their factory to a more friendly state of which there are many. Do a survey, find states with Democratic governors and legislatures and move consider moving there. It is about time that these idiotic Republicans begin to learn that their asinine laws have serious negative consequences.
13:02 November 21, 2011 by Aburgboy
Merc should move the plant to another state. I guarantee the law would change right away. They cannot afford to lose more jobs. It is sad to see that restrictions impose by stupid government on working people, yet they have thousands for illegal human traffickers running amok in southern states.
14:15 November 21, 2011 by hh922
Those Alabama cops should have their ass chewed out starting at the White House level and working down to town level. We have a German Foreign Exchange student who is 17 living with us in Tennessee and he easily got a TENN Drivers license without any problem... I made him do that just in case some goof ball cop wanted to give him a hard time if he was stopped... as to the investment MB made in Alabama, hopefully MB will look at this as a "red neck" mistake by high school level law enforcement.
14:28 November 21, 2011 by nemo999
The East Alabamus Redneckus is alive and well. To quote a very famous Sheriff of the South one Buford T. Justice, "Sumbitch, why I declare You all are NOT from around here, are you". That is the American equivalent of Ausländer, and "YOUR PAPERS PLEASE".

Barney Fife is alive and well, living and working near Tuscaloosa, and he wears a uniform, and yes it does sound like he barely graduated from High School.

So when in Alabama remember, "You all be careful now you here", don't drive like you are in Germany on the Autobahn.
14:30 November 21, 2011 by freechoice
Well Manure Happens!

Stay Cool! Stay Sober! Stay Calm!

Everything will be back to normal.

Hopefully everybody don't get too fired up!
14:51 November 21, 2011 by paynet2128
You folks are are really funny. This is an issue of personal responsibility, you do not travel anywhere and leave your ID and drivers license in the hotel! I don't care who you are! I have lived in Germany for 10 years and never once drove my car without my License. Why, because I refuse to have any issue with the Police. Yes, I now I am not a exec with Merc, it doesn't matter I still put my pants on one leg at a time just like the exec.
15:02 November 21, 2011 by nemo999
Well the little town in south Texas that I am from the only way not to have an issue with the local police, since they are primary revenue producing unit for the town is NOT to be anywhere near the Town, hell the DPS try not to spend too much time in the town.

So come to our little speed trap, and be prepared to leave a few of your hard earned dollars with our fair little city, even if you have all of your papers. They even have pre-printed envelopes which they will cheerfully provide for your donation. To my knowledge no one has ever won a jury trial.
15:35 November 21, 2011 by auniquecorn
wow, not one person thought that the big Mercedes exec might have been a total a$$hole to the cops, so they said, Bubba. Watch this.
15:52 November 21, 2011 by ChrisRea
Why would we think that? Just because cops abused their power?
16:11 November 21, 2011 by nolibs
@pepsionice - good points all around. Although I don't think it is a stupid law. I would have let the German exec off because illegal or not, he's the type of immigrant we need in the USA.
16:29 November 21, 2011 by twisted
QUOTE It is sad to see that restrictions impose by stupid government on working people, yet they have thousands for illegal human traffickers running amok in southern states. UNQUOTE

Excuse me? Where in hell did you get this sort of information? The US has lots of illegals running loose, but I certainly never heard of them being human traffickers. Please check your facts unless you are talking about those types that help the illegals enter the U.S. Even so, I rather doubt that the word "thousands" is appropriate.
17:30 November 21, 2011 by Staticjumper
When I was living in Germany in the 90's immigration officials raided a construction site down the street and arrested several illegal alien workers who were promptly deported back to their homeland, and the owner of the construction company was prosecuted for hiring them. Compare that to the US now where not only are illegals not arrested, but they can go to the local hospital without fear of being reported, their kids can enroll in public schools and even get reduced tuition at state colleges that is not available to US citizens. Alabama is simply doing what most reasonable countries already do. And BTW, carrying your driver's license and vehicle registration is required when driving anywhere in the US, regardless of your citizenship.
17:54 November 21, 2011 by gatorexpat
I do love how most here are focusing on the immigration side of the story when we all know as law abiding citizens no matter the country of orgin you follow the rules of your host nation plain and simple. Driving with no license? Illegal in both countries I'm pretty sure. No Passport? Hmmm. Polizei would have a field day with that one and I doubt it would be as simple as just getting a lift home and a slap on the wrist.

Its simply put...Guy breaks rules...Guy gets busted. Germany or America, period. the immigration rule really isn't relevant to the story at all.
17:57 November 21, 2011 by carlm
This story is the height of ignorance in it's accusatory tone. What did the guy from Mercedes do to get pulled over in the first place? And why didn't he have a drivers license? And if the federal government enforced it's immigration laws, Alabama wouldn't have to make theirs.
18:06 November 21, 2011 by AClassicRed
Most people skip Alabama when they visit the US. I know quite personally because that's where I spent part of my teen and later as an adult working in law enforcement. The Alabama Law got pushed through partly because of the large number of immigrant workers who did work many of the jobs other Alabamians or US residents didn't, like harvesting and husbandry work yet the "locals" felt uncomfortable with their presence. Also certain crime rates were higher among their populace. That could be also because more were reported, arrested and arraigned, however.

I'm going to take a stab at this, because I still know very many officers and troopers still on patrol there...in a situation like this, often it can be about "teaching the person a lesson" Alabama style, where they don't take any crap from others, especially a possibly well-dressed Mercedes driving (yes) foreigner who they perceive as thinking he owns the place. Not all officers are like that, but I can hear the accent and spiel in my head. Had heard it long before this law was passed.

But the exec should have had his driver's license because he was driving a car. They could have let him go after following him back to his lodging and confirming it, but for whatever reasons, they chose to follow the law to the letter. Really, it's a judgement call on the part of the officer. No, you don't have to arrest the person, but if you do choose to do so, you are within your rights and responsibilities as an officer. I would have accepted the explanation, gotten it worked out without an arrest, wrote up a report as to what happened and it wouldn't have been newsworthy.

@Twisted, @Nemo999 and others, just because the officers behaved this way doesn't mean the state itself is unfriendly, nor should a whole state be classified by this particular incident or even the law as a whole.The Japanese have auto building plants there also, and both they and the Germans have understandably garnered full support by very many residents who thank them for bringing in much needed jobs.

I personally understand the problem with too many officers who go beyond what is necessary to show their authority. A quick true story: Although I was a sworn in officer and generally known on my daytime shift, I'm Native American (and do speak with a non-English accent) and happened to be in plainclothes one night riding with an officer friend assisting at an incident. Standing on the side, in a suit and tie no less and with a badge on my pocket, I was approached, threatened and yelled at by an officer because I wasn't sitting on the curb with the other perpetrators (drug related). He didn't even ask any questions before starting that crap. When my friend confirmed who I was, he looked chagrined but it proved a distinct point. If you look a certain way, it can and does happen no matter who you are.
18:08 November 21, 2011 by nadom
If this is bad, why the hell did I have to carry my passport and driver's license whenever I drove in the 10 years I lived in Germany. It seems Germany has had this law longer than Alabama.
18:59 November 21, 2011 by Soonerdiver
The many comments regarding the "America's Dumbest" state and the "dumest laws" really should try living along the U.S. Southern borders! The problem really starts with the President and works it's way down thru the Department of Justice and Homeland Security... all of whom are guilty of NOT enforcing the current illegal immigration laws on the books.

The Federal Government has forced states to adopt their own laws to handle illegal immigrants. One of the primary reasons Alabama got involved is becase so many illegals are moving away from the border states and Alabama is one of the hardest hit. The state is forced to educate, medicate and placate the illegals. A prime example is the 13 illegal immigrants thar were arrested last week in Montgomery, Alabama... after their arrest ICE was notified and they said to let them go back into society. ???? Excuse me???

Also, I am sure a fine German police officer would gladly escort any idividual, who was breaking the law, back to their hotel to get their proper ID and Passport... yea right!

Till you have lived in our shoes please don't cast stones... keep in mind they may come back to bite ya!
19:08 November 21, 2011 by vonSchwerin
@ Soonerdiver

It's funny that you should make comments about the dumbest state, etc. Your comment is full of informal neologistic spellings and grammatical errors, not the least of which is it's vs. its.

Incidentally, neither Alabama nor Oklahoma (probably your home state based on your moniker "Soonerdiver") is on the southern border of the United States.
19:11 November 21, 2011 by raandy
I don't see why this was dumb.

The guy gets pulled over for a violation and has a non US drivers licence ,most likely not translated. The cop says , to himself , better safe than sorry so he runs this suspect in.

better than the crap I am hearing here about the neo nazi group over 10 years period popping off more than a dozen Muslim shop owners, and said they had 3 inside people, now there is some keen detective , police work.
19:28 November 21, 2011 by nemo999
To AClassicRed.

With all due respect I was stationed for 1 year Fort Rucker, 1 Year Huntsville (Marshall Space Flight Center), 1 Year Anniston Army Depot, 1 Year Maxwell AFB, 1 Year Fort Benning Ga, while not Alabama, it is close enough to spit into Alabama. I feel that given this I have a pretty good feel for flavor and tenor of Alabama, and it is not a place that I would choose to live in.
20:39 November 21, 2011 by farmy
@nolibs

Fully agree with your comment. I'm just surprised they gave a white boy this much trouble in the first place.
20:46 November 21, 2011 by puisoh
Well, the manager is 46-year-old, so no greenhorn intern I supposed, plus Germans are champion travellers. Carrying drivers' license is his duty if he wishes to drive and no matter how 'kein bock' you are of the trip, at least carry a copy of your passport, that is also the duty of any foreign visitor.

If you cannot identify yourself, you are only opening yourself to abuse, discrimination and all sorts of BS a cop might feel up to on a bad day.

Personally, I never leave my passport in the hotel, if it burns down or got bombed out while I am out, I will have to join in the chaos trying to get out of the place asap.
21:46 November 21, 2011 by spammurai
Euro tards. Like Europe is non papers friendly. A person who has no real ID gets pinched and you defend him. Why you just are not relevant anymore. In America you pay the price..which is not a free ride to your hotel. Just stay home. Tired of saving your azzes. The US shouls OWN Europe you lazies.
02:06 November 22, 2011 by xexon
This is just too funny. I grew up in Alabama.

And there's a reason why I don't live "there' anymore...

x
02:29 November 22, 2011 by vonSchwerin
Actually, I find the whole episode quite interesting. It's part of the law of unintended consequences.

-- MB put its factories in Alabama because of the cheap, non-union labor and looser regulations. (BMW did the same in South Carolina.)

-- Alabama has cheap, non-union labor and loose regulations because it's such a conservative state.

-- The same conservatism that fueled anti-union sentiment and demands minimal government regulation is the same conservatism that contributes to anti-immigrant sentiment.

I have to wonder if a visiting European businessman would face the same cultural climate in Ohio or Michigan. I'm sure he wouldn't in California or Massachusetts.
03:28 November 22, 2011 by Dizz
Can't post a link here so do a yootoob search for -- comedian debates heckling immigration officer --
03:31 November 22, 2011 by Larry Thrash
This article is so misleading. If I were pulled over for not having a license the same would happen to me, so the writer of this article says foreigners should be excepted because they aren't American? Sure sounds like it.

The writer of this article has a political agenda. The Associated Press is a branch of the Democratic party.
04:14 November 22, 2011 by ColoSlim
Ware R Ur papers boy! Wooo Weee hey Sarg! I got me one ob dem aliens!
04:27 November 22, 2011 by PhotosByStephan
We've all got to follow the rules... especially the one about carrying your license while driving. When I visit Germany, I have all my customary documents plus my passport plus my cousin's business card (Rechtsanwalt) in case I meet the Polizei.

With regard to moving the plant to a Democratic controlled state... unlikely. Aside from the pure foolishness of moving a billion dollar asset over one incident, Mercedes chose Alabama over other states, particularly predominant Democratic states, because of union concerns.
05:24 November 22, 2011 by anaverageguy
For goodness sake. A Mercedes executive is caught driving without proper ID and treated fairly by the police and it gets this sort of reaction. I'd be surprised if he wasn't reprimanded by Mercedes. I'm sure there are company policies regarding local laws, and if there aren't there should be.

As for the officer not letting the obviously not Mexican white German go ...... are you people insane? Wouldn't THAT be racist? Wouldn't THAT be discriminatory? It says "dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal..." And it means that all men stand equal in front of the law. Alabama is NOT "running it's own program". Federal law is primary. What Alabama is doing is enforcing federal regulations which have been on the books and ignored for years.

Europe AND the United States are both being over run by an open borders policy...... codified in Europe and simply tolerated in the US..... up till now. Look for more efforts by the states to do what the federal government has not... and that's control the borders..... in a legal and even handed way..... not giving preference to the privileged white guy from Germany.
07:21 November 22, 2011 by iche
Amercias Dumbest?

No. Americas DUMBNESS.
08:13 November 22, 2011 by MaKo
My German husband got pulled over for speeding once in a Southern state. The officer gave him a warning and told him,

"Just remember now, this isn't the Autobahn."

Then again, my husband had his German driver's license and passport along with him, just as any responsible traveler would.
09:17 November 22, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ anaverageguy

"A Mercedes executive is caught driving without proper ID and treated fairly by the police"

Here is where you are wrong. The police did not treat him fairly, but abused their power. The law (not one of the best, but still the law) requires police to verify someone¦#39;s immigration status if officers have a ¦quot;reasonable suspicion¦quot; he or she could be in the United States illegally (as stated in the article above). In the case of the Mercedes executive, one must be really dumb to consider a German driving an expensive car a potential illegal immigrant. But, as many Americans also present on this forum, they had something against Germans or rich people (inferiority complex or something else). So they decided to teach him an undeserved lesson. He actually was discriminated because he is German and/or rich. It is ignorant to say that the policemen acted in the spirit of the US Constitution.

Yes, the guy should have carried a passport and an international driving license. However holding somebody in detention for this fault is quite barbaric and cannot be compared with EU laws.

The police treatment is also very much different. I was stopped by Polizei for riding a bike on the sidewalk. They wanted to fine me, but I had no ID with me. So they let me go with a warning (which I actually took quite seriously as I started to obey the rule). I would say that using good judgement to make things better is preferable to using the law as a shield for fulfilling atavistic traits.
11:55 November 22, 2011 by LecteurX
I agree many questions remain unanswered after reading this account, however, the converse is NOT TRUE. I have already experienced having my papers checked while driving somewhere in Bavaria last winter, on my way to skiing with a group of Berlin colleagues. We were all foreigners, with the following identification:

- the French-Vietnamese driver of the car could only produce his French ID card and his, ahem, Canadian driver's licence - OK, kein Problem.

- two passengers of the car (including me) were from the EU - a French and a Spaniard; we produced our ID cards and were clear. OK, alles in Ordnung.

- the last passenger, though, was a bit more problematic: Chinese-Canadian with no other identification than his US driving licence (from Pennsylvania). No passport, no residence permit, no "wörk pörmit", no nothing. All his documentation proving he was legally in Germany was safely put away in his Berlin flat and we were 500 km from there already. We thought our nice skiing weekend would end somewhere in a Nuremberg police station before we had even made it to the Alps, but no: with their super-duper computerised card-reading device, they actually managed to check our friend's status just by reading his card and making some big-brother search in the big computers somewhere. And it was OK! We were waved past and could go on to the mountains :-)

No hassle, no detention, nothing. That's how it works in a civilised country, I could say.
14:53 November 22, 2011 by The-ex-pat
I have read a lot of remarks here and I agree and disagree with what has been written. You don't drive here in Germany without the required documentation in your wallet, so why did he think he could in the USA. Or, and I have done it, driven off and left my wallet/doc's on the table at home and noticed several hundred KM down the road. hardly the end of the world and not really a reason to be locked up. There is a lot missing to this story, but it also goes to show how inflexible and tunnel visioned some people in authority can be.
18:23 November 22, 2011 by Bruno53
We here in the USA are stupid. We make laws tougher and then scare away investments.
19:58 November 22, 2011 by TRJ
Seems to be a lot of people who believe that the federal government's perceived failure to do its job justifies the state to make the incredibly shortsighted decision to enact a law which harms it economically. Mercedes may choose not to abandon its investment in the Alabama plant, but the damage is most assuredly done for other foreign investment in there. This law screams NIMBYism toward foreign investment and the dunces of Alabama have themselves to blame.

And what the heck is an "International Drivers License" that some of the commenters are referring to?? It is merely an invention by AAA to get people to spend another $20 before going abroad. It is not required of Americans traveling in Europe or by Europeans traveling in the US.
03:28 November 23, 2011 by anaverageguy
Yes, yes. Mercedes and other multinationals will base location decisions involving 10s or millions of dollars on the fact that a Mercedes employee chose... CHOSE to disregard a law he was certainly aware of. mm hmm.

And, not that it matters, I find it to be rather ironic that a European, or a group of Europeans could find it to be civilized to enact laws and then choose not to enforce them. So..... what's the point of having a law if you're not going to require compliance?

EVERYONE knows that if you drive in a foreign country you had better have your identification with you and I don't mean something issued by a pizza place in your home town.

Why, that ignorant hill billy probably couldn't even identify the guys accent. But he could tell that the plates on the car were wrong (not identified as an expensive car, only as a rental) and the guy only had a German ID. He could have just murdered the REAL German......because everyone knows how Germans are such sticklers for detail...... right? Well, apparently not. Apparently some of them (at least one) are absent minded and or disrespectful of the laws of their host nation.

There is only one correct stance on this issue, and it involves obeying existing law. The rest is "hey man..... get over it". Perhaps this is how the Greeks feel about currency regulations that they were obliged to obey. Hey Germany...... get over it.
09:35 November 23, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ anaverageguy

You are still missing the point(s). You say: "what's the point of having a law if you're not going to require compliance?". Of course one should respect the law. In this case, the police officer did not, as he had no real reason to consider the German a potential immigrant. So it was actually an abuse.

You also say: "He could have just murdered the REAL German". Yes, and then right away he took his face so that it is the same as the one on the ID card. Are you writing scenarios for "Mission Impossible"?

"issued by a pizza place in your home town" - I guess you come from a country where the pizza industry is nationalised. So it is understandable why is it so difficult for you to imagine how a civilised police work would look like ((re)reading LecteurX' post could help you in this regard).
06:01 November 24, 2011 by wood artist
A little update to the original information....

The car was a rental, so it's quite likely he had no idea it was missing a license plate. Apparently he did have the rental paperwork with him, so most police officers wouldn't have made much of the whole thing. The rental paperwork would also contain his Driver's License information, since the rental agency is required to see it.

It is worth noting that he was only arrested on the immigration question, not on anything related to the car. While it's probably appropriate to carry your passport with you when in a foreign country (I always carry mine when in Germany just because it's likely to prevent a problem should something happen) it's not strictly required under federal law, and state law has no Constitutional power to require it.

As for the idea that the Federal government has "forced" the states to do something (like this) the fact is the Fed hasn't forced the states to do anything! The truth is that some states don't like the Federal Laws, can't get Congress to make any changes, so they've taken things into their own hands, in direct violation of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court hasn't ruled on any of these yet.

This would be no different than NRW deciding they didn't like some law that Berlin passed, and create their own law instead. They can create the law, and maybe even try to enforce it, but eventually the courts will rule that the issue in question is not a state issue.

wa
17:31 November 25, 2011 by SusiQ4U
Having "lived" in AL when this law went into effect, I can bear witness to the large numbers of undocumented hotel workers that suddenly disappeared from their jobs and the number of American citizens that had jobs - and were enjoying the opportunity to be earning an income! It was an interesting change to the environment. I could now speak to & be understood by the people who came to my room to tidy it up. And all the WalMart employees had English as their first language! What a concept!!!

Yes, there are some tweaks that need to be made to the law but it's my feeling that if one doesn't come to this country through legal channels then one needs to be arrested & sent home.

It's nothing new that ALL visitors to the US must have their passports with them at all times, just as this is the law in all countries.

No sympathy for the guy, he should have known better!

C'est la vie!!! ♥
23:57 November 25, 2011 by PierceArrow
Remember how the left-wing-nuts claimed that the Alabama law would only be enforced against poor Hispanics? The arrest of the German executive driving a Mercedes shows that claim to be yet another liberal lie!
10:36 November 26, 2011 by odtaa
This reminds me of a fifty year old English professor attending an academic conference in a southern state - who was about to cross a road. He was warned by a passerby not to jay walk.

He ignored the warning and started to cross. The passerby turned out to be a plain clothes cop. Annoyed the cop threw him to the ground, handcuffed him and then dragged him to jail. He spent the night in a large cell with drug dealers, drunks and some people who had been in a fight.

He was then released next morning with a $15 fine.

He was wrong - but the reaction was totally over the top.
05:36 November 27, 2011 by Drewsky
Here's MY suggested Immigration Law: If you have the 'stars and bars' anywhere on your state flag, your ass is OUT of the Union. That means you're fired, outta there as in 'go form your own country'. (That's what those Confederate yayhoo states have wanted since 1860 anyway, so as far as I'm concerned, give it to them. They're pulling the rest of the USA down, not to mention making it look bad on an international level)
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