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. tracie

    I travel internationally all of the time. I would never feel comfortable without my passport on me. I do not understand why it is considered racist to insist that people not from this country carry their passport. I do when I am in Sweden or France and would fully expect authorities in Sweden and France to request my passport if I had broken a law.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      And if you so happened to forget it? Would you be fine with being jailed and possibly deported if they didn't allow you to acquire it, or if you lost it? What would be the fair treatment? Deportation? Jail? Prison? Immigration Dentention which is a privately run business looking to make a profit off of your detention?

      November 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wade

      Santosaint, he wasn't jailed or fined, he was held until someone could bring his ID. That's EXACTLY what happens in Europe. And American traveling in the EU is REQUIRED to have their passport on them at all times... look it up! The exact same thing would happen in the EU to a citizen from any other country.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dexter

    theys sure like to lick that ass down there by hicksville alabami,,, lol

    November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bobby Williston

    This is a tempest in a teapot. I know, given that the norm in this country is to let illegals roam free 'cross the fruited plain without molestation of any sort by the authorities, it is easy to forget that in most of the rest of the civilized countries around the world, the authorities arrest and detain foreigners without proper ID on their person as a routine matter of course. So the anger is over what would have certainly happened to any American pulled over in Germany without his passport.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      I cannot understand people that say that we are American yet they always refer to the practices of other countries....mind boggling.

      In other countries there are political prisoners should we in turn practice this atrocity?

      November 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hijack28

    Germans are law abiding people. Are known for their engineering and precision. And as such would recognize and appreciate the adherence to protocol and the law. I wouldn't be surprise if this gentleman fully understood what happened and accepted responsibility of being at fault. But I think that wouldn't be voiced, because he wouldn't want to thus himself or the company into the spotlight. However, this newspaper is showing how twisted they are, and not knowing how they are actually revealing themselves for what they are.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      And what are they? Opportunists? Isn't that the American way? Call us a nation of laws but how often do citizens break the laws? We demand immigrants act a certain way but you stay quiet to all the law breaking citizens we have. We have a double standard in this country and people want to enjoy a priveledged citizenry...this is what our founding Fathers were trying to prevent with the 14th amendment.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kenneth

    But its ok to press 1 for english or 2 for spanish ? how about 3 for German now ? Come on now These police officers were way out of line all they had to do was to show the man there wallets then the man would of done the same the officers could of handled this better... But on the other hand the Alabama Law Stands its ground its a good thing ! Next is to reintroduce the " Mason Dixion line "

    November 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WhackyWaco

    He should have had his passport with him.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      Since you don't have an assitant and aren't paid the big bucks and run the wouldn't have any idea that there is an assistant for that. Since the assistant wasn't there, how could he possibly have his passport on him? Why didn't they allow him to make a phone call to his assistant so that he could bring him his passport....Oh yea, Alabamy and everywhere else in the U.S. if your an immigrant you don't get a phone call you are automatically treated like a terrorist...Ooops, another mistake we let terrorists in with visas and legally so they are treated better because we somehow don't screen them under existing immigration laws BECAUSE WE ISSUE THEM SO THEY CAN COME IN AND TRY TO DO US HARM...all the terrorists entered this country legally!!!!!!

      November 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Santosaint

    @ PALINtwit – you live up to your screen name you racist bigot.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Roll Tide

    @Reality, I also worked at a plant here in Alabama for 22 years and it shut down and went to Mexico, because of cheaper labor, so it makes me wonder why they are over here and not in Mexico? Send them back across the border there should be jobs for them.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      Only if you know someone in the drug cartel and the government. Then you have to pay them off so they don't kill you or your family.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      Plus your union probably was demanding something stupid because once people earn a certain amount or get certain benefits they don't cave in for nothing and the result is the company moves out of the country. What do union members get stuck with? Another bill for the monthly dues so the union can kill more jobs. I'm not anti-union, I'm anti-corrupt unions that don't really negotiate but threaten and demand.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • BamaChick

      @Santosaint Alabama is a right-to-work state, and mostly free of unions. That is one of the many reasons that companies such as Mercedes locate here. And the lower taxes. And less regulation. That also brought us Toyota, and LG Electronics, and Hyundai, and Mondo, and Honda, and the list goes on (more than 300 in all). Many of these companies have been here for decades, so we must be doing something right.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Butch

    It's Alabama...what do you expect? They're backwards, bigoted, racist and 'Christian'...need I say more? They simply love to hate!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • juan

      Butch: You must be from Arkansas. How nice of you to share your opinion of Alabama. I have lived here for almost 60 years and I have seen very little of the hatred of which you speak. Since you obviously reside in Nirvana, why don't you come to Alabama and enlighten us on how we could live a more perfect life? After all, weren't we all created in your image?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plks

      Im guessing what you know of AL or most things in general you learned on TV.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andre the Giant

      To "Juan:" First, I'm guessing that's not your real name. More likely Jim Bob. But regardless if you've lived in Alabama for 60 years and haven't seen any hatred, you must be blind. There was the whole civil rights thing. You know with the KKK lynching certain people because they didn't "know their place." This isn't much different. It's just better veiled hatred.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. d

    Thank you T-town cops for proving this law is not racist. You see, all these liberals said the law was racist against all the illegal mexicans in Alabama. We just locked up the whitest of the whitest nationalities on earth. Why? Cause he had to prove he was here legally after driving without a license, which is a crime in Alabama.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I agree – I don't really get it. In Europe you are expected to have your passport on you at ALL times and must produce it whenever you are asked. They didn't know who he was – he had no identification on him. Why would you be driving without a license anyway?

      November 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plks

      I know right.... OMG hes an exec of Merc Benz. Im sure his salary and connections could allow him to obtain the proper ID necessary to have avoided this confrontation. Jesus I may cry myself to sleep that this clown didnt have the right paperwork. If I go to another country I may sound weird but uhh I think Im going to research and aquire the ID/papers needed to reside there so as to not break the law. I cant stand foreigners sometimes. I kinda want to move to AL but I dont think they use computers that much there so may be hard finding a job. But I guess I could get a job checking IDs and would love to do it.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bobby

    Not any different from any US citizen. I get stopped. I don't have my DL. I get a court date. I go show my DL to the judge. I go on my merry way. If I don't have a DL, I get charged. Why should it be different for anyone else?

    November 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      He was arrested (as in detained). That would never happen to you. A ticket is one thing an arrest is another

      November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • WL

      the article says he was "arrested"; I'd bet if you were driving without your license you'd just get a summons and be sent on you way, not arrested.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plks

      Maybe not , but I would be able to explain clearly and concisely in English that I didnt have my license and show the insurance papers I have in my car and he could probably check his cop computer. This clown prob couldnt speak english at all and if so not convincing enough to get him out of trouble (for which he would need the ID get out of jail card). personally I think this story is hillarious.. atleast we didnt starve or beat him like most other countries would do.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. david

    Give the ignorant a rope and they will always hang themselves. Let the South rot.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynicalone

      So david, I see you must have a lot of extra rope there around the house.....

      November 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bobby Williston

    And to the idiot who wrote the Post Dispatch article – Mercedes is not going to relocate an entire manufacturing operation over a petty little incident like this. This is business. They don't careabout personal indignities; it's the bottom line that matters. And spending millions of dollars to relocate a plant with no business reason to do so would be the height of absurdity.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      You are right. Mercedes will not move. But, the Chinese will read the article and, all things being equal, will not like how they should expect to be treated if a white German was treated this way. Maybe they will go to another state. Afterall, big businesses are run by people, and people don't like to be unwelcome. Alabama is saying just that.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hijack28

    Germans are law abiding people and are known for their engineering and precision. And as such, I'm sure they would, like any other law abiding people, recognize and appreciate the adherence to protocol and the law. I wouldn't be surprise if this gentleman fully understood what happened to him and accepted the responsibility of being at fault. But I do think that wouldn't be voiced, because he wouldn't want to thrust himself or the company into the political spotlight. However, this newspaper is showing just how twisted they are and not knowing how they are actually revealing themselves for what they really are. While trying to exploit something, they are actually showing just how much of a lack of integrity they have and a willingness sell the country out to gain a political score. I am discussed with these people.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Esteban

    Being a St. Louisian whose job moved to Alabama it is an embarrassment having to live in the state of Alabama with politicians like Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and State Senator Terri Collins. These holier than thou politicians expect the poor in Alabama to trek hours into the countryside to pick vegetables for less than minimum wage and no benefits. I would rather live next door to an illegal alien than to a person from Alabama as at least I can understand an alien's accent. Three cheers to the St. Louis Post Dispatch as some of these millionaire politicians and this state need to be put in their place.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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