After exec's arrest, St. Louis paper slams Alabama on immigration, courts Mercedes
Mercedes, Alabama's largest exporter, says it's responsible for 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region.
November 23rd, 2011
12:35 PM ET

After exec's arrest, St. Louis paper slams Alabama on immigration, courts Mercedes

It’s not often that a newspaper can attack another state, pontificate on a hot-button national issue and deliver a targeted economic development pitch in one go.

That’s what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board did Tuesday with its open letter, “Hey, Mercedes, time to move to a more welcoming state.”

News surfaced this week that police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, recently pulled over a man because of a problem with a tag on his rental car. The man, who was German, didn’t have handy what the state considers proper identification, so he was arrested under a provision of Alabama’s immigration law, which is considered the strictest in the land.

Turns out, the man was Detlev Hager, a 46-year-old Mercedes-Benz executive traveling on business. About 10,000 people in the region rely on the company for their livelihood, according to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, which happens to be the state’s largest exporter.

Hager – one of 66 people charged with not having proper identification since October 1 – had his charges dropped after an associate tendered Hager's passport and German driver’s license, the Tuscaloosa News reported.

Not before the Post-Dispatch took its shot, though.

“Carpetbaggers never have been treated very kindly in the South, though we would have thought exceptions would have been made for those with SUV factories in their carpetbags,” the editorial said.

The newspaper went on to say Mercedes should move its SUV plant to Missouri, “the Show-Me State, not the ‘Show me your papers’ state.”

Citing the state's laxer (but still serious) immigration law, abundance of trained autoworkers, proud German heritage, predilection for “hard work and beer” and a potential $100 million in tax incentives, the newspaper implored the German automaker to consider new digs, perhaps in Fenton.

“You've got two choices,” the paper told Mercedes. “Either ask your executives to carry their immigration papers at all times, or move to a state that understands gemüchlichkeit,” the German word for "comfort."

It was the latest assault on Alabama’s immigration law, which can count the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security among its detractors. was in Alabama last month when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the state from enforcing provisions of the law until larger constitutional questions could be addressed.

While several people, including nonimmigrants who had found work after an exodus of Latinos from the state’s tomato farms, applauded Alabama’s tough stance, others told CNN they were concerned the legislation could paint the state as bigoted and intolerant.

Here we go again with the negative stigma of Alabama. Do we ever get out of it?” asked Theresa De Leon, Birmingham's first Hispanic female firefighter.

She cited the Trail of Tears from the 1800s and last century’s Jim Crow laws as past attempts to displace or disrupt entire peoples.

Last week, the Justice Department filed a brief in the 11th Circuit calling the state law an unconstitutional mandate that threatens “the most basic human needs.”

In its Tuesday editorial, the Tuscaloosa News said the law is sure to cost Alabama many jobs. It said a Chinese company was already having second thoughts about putting a $100 million plant in economically depressed Thomasville because the company feels it isn't "welcome because of the immigration law.”

“The immigration law is becoming the greatest threat to the state’s economy and job creation, overshadowing even the record-setting bankruptcy of Jefferson County,” the paper’s editors wrote. “Global corporations must be asking themselves whether their international employees — those with legal work permits — are welcome in Alabama.”

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Filed under: Alabama • Auto Industry • Automobiles • Civil Rights • Courts • Economy • Immigration • Jobs • Politics • U.S.
soundoff (850 Responses)
  1. JOSE0311USMC


    November 24, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Ildrig

      Are you talking about the Gestapo? That was WWII.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • huh?

      Another militant wanna be, don't bother trying to teach him history. lol.

      November 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ildrig

    Under this new Alabama law, if you ever realize that you forgot your driver’s license, so that you are driving without the necessary ID, we, law abiding citizens of the US, should all turn ourselves in to the police.

    November 24, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    The politicians keep talking about amnesty for them to be us citizens. But the truth is most of them don't want to be legal us citizens, they would have to pay taxes and insurance. Now they send as much money back home as possible and get what insurance and other services free based on our current laws. If they need health care. My wife works at a hospital and sees them there all the time trying to get free medical care from the hospital and specialty doctors that have offices there.
    She tells me all the time how you see them there with the lady pregnant and has two, three or more others with them by there side. I am sick and tired of giving our services away to free loaders from other countries all while people born here that are legal and specially veterans can't the services they need free.
    It seem that our nation has become the catering country to the world and illegals and the rich the rest of us are stuck paying the bills.

    November 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. noemi

    I seen the alabama gov on tv talking about wanting his state to go back to its org. Place I had to laugh.In the same hour. Long segment farmers had a story to tell also.the farmers crops rotted in the feilds and I laughed out loud when I seen this as I continued to watch one of the farmers hired alabama american pl.she lost her crop too.and agin I laughed.the gov. Wants his stats back the way it was sorry a$$ hole but I'm sure the black or white ppl r gonna let that happen .the white people well not work in feilds like they did back in the 50s so that only leaves guess what the blacks.Guess what gov. They won't be forced to work any more and its aginst the law to hang ppl from trees after all this is alabama your crops well rot in the ground your ppl well be worse off because of your bigotry.trash begets trash and that is what alabama is.power to the realy south the black men,women that died do to your crulty they were the people that made your state while u and the rest of your white trash whip toting should be so proud of your heritage .see ya all in hell.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dr. Anderson Long

    All right! Maybe Alabama and Texas will secede again! And our gene pool will be better protected from avaricious, venal, ignorant sub-normals

    November 25, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. kabrac

    Maybe Mr. Mercedes Benz will realize that just because he IS Mr. MB, it doesn't make him too good to abide by the law. Good for Alabama!

    November 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geoerge

      With all due respect you are a true imbecile! I hope one day realize that the US is turning into a Gestapo country.Tell me
      if you know another country in the world where almost 10% of the population has been arrested.
      The word freedom exists only in your sick imagination.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bud

    Go to Germany. Rent a car. Leave your passport and ID at the hotel. Get pulled over. See what happens. Probably a much bigger deal than what this guy went through.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bran

    Try going thru MO on a bike with a Gadsden flag on it and see what happens. Unless someone educated the folks there, you will be considered a terrorist

    November 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Albert

    Nice article....

    December 3, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. jim

    NO NO NO Country in the world would tolerate 15 million(or more) illlegal people in their country .
    Oops , oh yeah there is one,OURS.
    Imagine 10 million jobs created and 10 million less leaches and economic burdens on OUR society.
    If I wanted to live in a third world society I would move there.
    A certain third world society is coming to my country and I DON'T LIKE IT.
    If they could assimilate ,like past waves of immigrants, it would not be so bad.

    December 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dieter

    The only problem St. Louis Dispatch... is that Mercedes can make more money by having their facilities in Alabama than in Missouri.
    So instead of whining about immigration law and crowing about how great your state is... why don't your "show" us some lower taxes?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Because we are mostly republicans and the republicans are trying to crush unions and have redistrict the state to get more republicans in. Republicans in Missouri have also voted against the "affordable health care act" but have voted to have healthcare ins providers provide therapy and all kinds of help for autism children in the state. (One of the republicans put the bill forward because he has an autistic child). I think it has more in it for autism than we give the disabled in Missouri. By the way they have been closing homes for Adult mentally handicapped.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bicycle Bill

    "You've got two choices,” the paper told Mercedes. “Either ask your executives to carry their immigration papers at all times, or move to a state that understands gemüchlichkeit,” the German word for "comfort."

    If they are going to court a company by appealing to their Germanic heritage, it would help if they would learn how to correctly spell "gemütlichkeit".

    May 2, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
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