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. publicus1776

    They may lose jobs, but they'll keep voting Republican as long as the fall for the "fear factor" Republicans pander to.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kris

    Well, what should be done about illegal aliens, status quo or in other words, nothing! At least they're trying something.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • The One

      The problem with 'trying something' is that you need to make sure you're trying something that doesn't end up stabbing your farmers, schools and bottom line in the back. The people who put this through could not have expected anything less to happen, but they're acting towards their base and not common sense. Immigration is an issue, but it's mostly one because the vast majority of illegal immigrants have become critical to basic sectors of the American economy, and kicking them out is basically asking for another recession, if not worse. The thing is, it's a lot easier to paint it as 'they're taking out jobs!' knowing they take jobs most Americans never would work for more than a few days. I've spent a day doing farm-style labor in an orange grove in Florida. IT IS BRUTAL. The will and determination of a migrant worker to do that year in and year out awes me to this day.

      So yeah, something needs to happen, but not at the expense of a city, state or nation's economic success.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Illegal immigrants taking jobs?/ How do they get a job legally in the first place, oh, you mean they work under the table and don't pay taxes...You support this? How about the largest gangs in America right now, MS-13. They are made up all illegal aliens, committing serous crimes. They get caught, they get deported, they return as soon as possible. So they put a heavy burden on all taxpayers for police enforcement, medical costs and they don't pay taxes. So I glad your happy paying for these illegal aliens, but i do applaud Alabama for trying to do something. So would you rather keep german executive happy or force Illegal Aliens to leave your state? that's a easy one for me!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @The One
      If the city or state has based its economy on illegal immigration then it deserves to fail. Illegal is illegal, we shouldn’t be okay with it because it puts more money in our pockets. There is also a strong argument that the boost to the economy brought by illegal’s is completely negated by the cost they place on the city’s and state through healthcare, education and imprisonment.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob in Pa

    Whomever penned the article should be reprimanded for bad taste.
    Whomever authorized the printing should be fired.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • JasonP

      And your reasoning would be

      November 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JasonP

    I love when Republican idiots reap what they sow.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. the kookaburra blames you!

    Aw the tolerance and hospitality of the deeply ingrained racism of the south. When are you rednecks going to join the rest of the country in the modern world?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JasonP

      Don't want 'em 😉

      November 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      If anything this shows the law isn’t racist. He was driving in a foreign country without his passport or a driver’s licenses. Strange that you talk about tolerance in such a bigoted statement.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • FedUpWithImmigration

      Why don't all of you that disagree with the immigration law in Alabama drive on down to Alabama and pick up as many of the ILLEGAL immigrants as possible and take them back to YOUR states so they can live there WITHOUT PAYING TAXES like everyone else. This is NOT about racism. It is about being in this country ILLEGALLY and living by a different set of rules/standards as everyone else. They utilize all the resources that the rest of the TAXPAYERS are funding including public services, schools, medical facilities, etc.while not paying any local, state or federal taxes. Why doesn't everyone get off their RACIST horses and look at the reality of the situation–maybe because they aren't FLOODING your communities, cities, states?

      November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustWho

      glad I don't live in alabama any more.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    Why didn't the executive have his necessary papers? I carried mine when I was in Germany.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Just what I was thinking. I'm not in favor of the immigration law but dude should have his papers with him.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sagebrush Shorty

    He should have been carrying his passport. He is in a foreign country.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • helicohunter

      I guess you don't travel much. Passports should be kept in the safest place available, which is often not in one's pocket.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. **cosmicvox*

    ILLEGAL Immigration is the problem here. Here these cops stop, question and haul in a white guy in a nice suit and STILL there's cries of bigotry. I just have to Laugh!!!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moderate

      I totally agree! Can't please some people I guess.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nothing better to do

    Look at the bright side, at least the cops down there are not

    November 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • PR

      Wait, I want to see the picture of the German, maybe he is Hispanic descendent.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Moderate

    This PROVES that the Alabama immigration law is NOT racist. Everyone is afraid it would lead to discrimination against Hispanics and here, they CORRECTLY apply the law to a German millionaire. Why would people have a problem with that?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Common Sense

    Your comment only advertises your ignorance. What do you think would happen if you were pulled over in Europe with no identification? And besides, didn't Germany give birth to the phase: "Papers please!" Alabama is doing nothing wrong ...

    November 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gsperson

    Try driving without a license or passport in Germany and see that their polizei think.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. helicohunter

    Newsflash- WWII is over. There are more American nazi sympethizers than German ones. Time to stop listening to those voices in your head.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Common Sense

    Ooops, that would be "phrase" ... sorry to all the spell checkers out there ...

    November 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. A_dingo_ate_my_bagel

    My family and I had the opportunity to live in Germany for three years. While there, we had to test for and obtain a German driver's license and additionally pay for an international driver's license (similar to the AAA licenses). We had to carry our passports (every occupant of the vehicle) along with these two driving licenses whenever we drove into neighboring countries (i.e. France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, etc...). France was particularly prone to pulling over cars arbitrarily to check if the occupants had the proper paper work. It's just part of the privilege of driving, let alone driving in a foreign country. Oh, and by the way, I'm originally from Alabama. So, I guess I'm not so offended by asking others to follow the law.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
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