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.

CNN.com 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. dexter

    alabama sticks- lets get them out of the union..as a state- we dont need these hicks

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

      What do they stick....? And if you want hicks try Georgia.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nichole

    I for one am glad that this man was stopped and detained no matter who he turned out to be. If this man had been in his own country, was pulled over and did not have his license and ID on him do you think the cops would have let him go on his merry way? Everything was worked out when he was able to produce the papers saying he was here legally and could legally operate the vehicle he had been in. Imagine if Alabama had let this man go (with no proof he could drive the car) and he had hit a bus load of children, everyone would blame the cops for not stopping him when they could have. Or scenario number 2, he drove away and undetected the car was filled with explosives that he then drove into a federal building. Again everybody would be screaming about the mistake Alabama made. The law was not used to harass this man, the system worked.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ChuckFromAL

    I live in Alabama now, but have lived all over the US and overseas previously. While I do not agree with much of Alabama's immigration laws I must note that in Europe (including Germany), the same type of laws exist and are enforced. It's common sense to always have proper ID (passport, visa etc) when traveling in a foreign country.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dexter

    alabama succkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkssssssssssss

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

      So do idiotic comments...

      November 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plks

      I doubt you would recognize it if you were dropped in the middle of it. And with a name like Dexter I’m guessing you can speak English well enough to avoid harassment. Although your spelling succkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkssssssssssss

      November 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RV1982

    So you are telling me the guy didn't even have his passport on him? Of course he was detained...just like anyone else driving a car without an ID or a driver's license issued by one of the states or territories of the U.S. Carry your passport stupid.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Old School!

    I understand the editor of the newspaper was offering "Blow" "Jobs" for Mercedes Executives to come to St. Louis, Missouri!! Things are really getting bad there, and they will do anything for business!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plks

      Yea the paper is just mad because this cant really be made into a racial issue this time because it was a rich white guy probably driving a nice ar$$ rental and still got deuched.

      But yea they definately got "Slammed"... what a rediculous headline. CNN throws out "slammed" or "blasted" in atleast one headline everyday now... laughable.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynicalone

      Yeah, CNN is Atlanta's mouthpiece. Talk about hate now...Atlanta has always hated Alabama and Birmingham in particular. Atlanta billed itself "the city too busy to hate"......it was busy exporting it's KKK and hate to Alabama in the 60s. I'm old enough to remember that....

      November 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kish

    Country hicks...... they said something was wrong with a tag on his rental car not that he didn't have any.... We americans also commit crimes....ppl need to get a life and worry about thereselves

    November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LS from Canada

    Big deal! So what! A guy gets snagged for not having his DL and landed immigrant status papers. Your country is falling apart. Big Deal!

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

      Alabama is not really in this country. You would understand if you had ever been there.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Can I come live with you guys? Please? I swear I never voted for Bush, didn't support the Patriot Act or Guantanamo or warrantless wiretapping or torturing people for information or bailing out corporations while they send all our jobs overseas any of this other stuff that our stupid country is digging itself a great big mass grave with.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      It is in a world of it's own.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Percy

      Alabama is no different than any other Southern State. Ignorant northern bigots appear to be posting on this blog today.Guess if you don't like the South than stay away– problem solved 😉

      November 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hinterarsch

      Typical American! The cops cannot read and have no clue about civilized behaviour. This is really good advertisement for Alabama which is as backward as the outback in Australia. If I were Merzedes I would relocate to China. Screw America!

      November 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AcerGraser

    Although we know the true racist intent of the Alabama law, the reality is that any of us driving without proper identification in Europe would be subject to the same treatment. The only difference is that we'd likely be instructed to follow the police vehicle to the station.

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

      Please, share the "true racist intent" of this law. Enlighten us to the error of our ways. Any racist intent found in this law is from the paranoia expereinced by the ignorant.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devk

      Excellent response. Alabaman's don't understand. They have a long and troubled past.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Durin

      Why is it not racist in Europe to require the same information?

      November 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Percy

      Nothing racist with trying to stop the influx of illegals into the USA or a given State when the government will not do IT'S JOB. Only an idiot would play that race card FOOL !

      November 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      The true racist meaning is that anyone besides ignorant rednecks are not welcome in Alabama.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Well that, and we don't employ 10,000 Europeans

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

      Racist may be too strong a description. Xenophobic is probably the right term. Regardless, the message is clear: Alabamans don't want you in their state.

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

      Hmmm... if we came to a steep ravine, I'd run them off the road and take off...

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

      Hey, what's 10,000 jobs when you can hang onto your failed ideology?

      November 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      The sarcasm was obviously lost to you. And you still haven't provided proof of the supposed racist intent in the law.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hinterarsch

      the American Police is a bunch of morons. It does not matter which state they are all the same. No smarts, no common sense and just brutal no matter what. It is what America is, crazy, ignorant, deceptive and laying.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SAX

    To make friends with other nations and people, it would help to take the effort to spell and define correctly. Gemütlichkeit, not gemüchlichkeit (unless you are Swiss), is a word is not easily translated. It does not mean comfort. angenehm, bequem, behaglich etc, means comfort. Gemütlichkeit is a word derived from a culture and only through experience one can truly appreciate the wonderful feeling. I do hope Missouri manages to convince Mercedes to move so that they too can say, Mensch, hier ist es aber gemütlich.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JOregon

    It would be pretty funny if the auto manufacturer pulled out of Alabama.
    When they REALLY begin to feel the impact on their pocket book people tend to change their minds about laws like this.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    "“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."

    Sure – when you stop doing things more appropriate to 1811 than 2011, dear.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nick

    Mercedes should move to CA, friendly people and unlike Missouri, very pleasant weather.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JLPl

      Yeah California, land of the high taxes and ridiculous environmental regulations. Corporations are moving out of the state, not into it. I lived there for 23 years, but would not do it again unless I absolutely had to.If Alabama is dumb enough to alienate their biggest employer, they deserve to lose it to another state. Georgia has passed similar legislation, but not quite as stupid as the Alabama law.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trigger

      Really, nobody wants to go to California with all you self rightous hypocrites, high taxes, bankrupt welfare state, and eco-terrorism laws.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    Papers! Papers! You there! HALT! Show us your papers!

    Bunch of backwoods goose-stepping toothless brown-shirted banjo-banging hicks, along with the rest of the genital-groping nudie-photo-snapping TSA.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • ComeOnMan9

      Baby please don't hold back. Let it out, don't be shy. Get 'em straight.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    Being German he should have known better. European immagration laws are even more strict than Alabama's. You cant go anywheres without your papers in Europe sometimes even between states.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • cptdondo

      Huh? Been to Europe lately?

      The only time I am asked for ID is when I enter the EU and when I get on the subway – and all they want is to see my ticket.

      I have more freedom of movement and less hassle in a former communist country than I do in the US. Coming back here I'm subject to the rudeness of the immigration staff, the arrogance of the customs staff, and the groping of the security staff. Now we can add the stupidity of the Alabaman rednecks to that.

      Last time I crossed into a former communist nation, they didn't even want to see my passport. Just a friendly wave and "are you visiting?"

      November 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • European

      Tom, You should try traveling, maybe even outside your local town. Europe is nothing like that and no in the UK you don't have to carry papers, or your licence, even when driving.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • 27910260

      CPT, it's no us arguing with tom. I'm sure he is just regurgitating some baseless "fact" he read in a scare-mail sent out by the tea party and doesn't even have a passport.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
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