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. Dave

    Here in Ontario, Canada we have a migrant worker program that WORKS!! Mexican farm workers come up here every summer (and have for years, returning each year) in their own vehicles, work the harvest(s) and then return home, ironically, driving through the USA. We see Mexican license plates on cars and trucks quite often during the harvest season. Why can't the USA work something out along these lines? Come north, do the harvest and return home.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devk

      That won't get votes you see..some party thrives on demagoguery but Canadian solution is too easy and simplistic; that would be undesirable.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      Dave, much of US does accept migrant labor. I live in LA and we have one in our house. He is a great addition to the house, works incessantly and helps the older people. Urban states generally have better educated people and
      more tolerance for immigrants. Alabama is a joke.

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

    "Carpetbaggers"? really!?!?!? What century does this editorial writer live in?

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

    This country has become the greatest embarrassment in the "civilized" world. We have become the most moronic and short sighted society. I do wonder when we will just tumble into the abyss.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Art

    Just how incredibly obtuse can one state be? This is an example of how a theocracy works. The state is populated by dinosaurs who depend on bible-thumpers to tell them how to live, who are still fighting the Civil War, and who were founded by immigrants and now reject immigrants. Oh well, I guess ignorance has it's place.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      We reject ILLEGAL immigrants. Which is a policy every state and the federal government should and is supposed to have. Legal immigrants can come and go as they please. We just want to get the criminals out.

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

    This is actually good... Now people can't complain that this law is racist..

    November 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BK2OC

    to all the left wing idiots who are making a big deal about the fact that we was arrested and not given a ticket. he didnt have proper id on him. so, who was the officer going to write the ticket out to? adolf hitler? mickey mouse? plus this also proves that this law does not discriminate against mexicans. i wish cali had the same law

    November 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Justen beiber

    Shoot to kill

    November 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bruin

    Seems like St. Louis forgot that it's roots started in Mobile, AL.

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

      I heard St Louis started in your mama.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jm

      Uhmm. . . huh? St Louis got it's start in Mobile? Sorry, but you'd better check your facts. St Louis was founded as a French trading outpost before there even WAS a Mobile, Alabama

      November 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      He must be from Alabama too... pure ignorance.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • truth

      St. Louis root's do not come from Alabama. The French were the first to explore and settle the area around St. Louis. Many landmarks and streets still carry the French heritage: i'm unaware of any called "Bubba".

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

    The plant was originally going to located in Mebane, NC (Off of I-40, down the road of R-D-CH, and home to Walter Kiddie (fire extingishers)), but after debating it the town voted against it. They would have bankrupted the town for 20 years, with all of the infrastrucuture and demands that Mercedes wanted.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Art

    Actually, in the US, ignorance is not the exclusive province of the South. I live in California and the small, rural towns of the central valley are populated by some of the most ignorant people on earth. Probably immigrated from the South themselves, tho'

    November 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guester

      You should travel more. Rural Illinois is the most backwards place I've ever seen.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Apparently you have never been to Philadelphia or any prison.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      You can find ignorance anywhere you look. The difference is whether the locals treat it as a virtue or vice. I've found backwards communities all over the country.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Realist

    "others told CNN they were concerned the legislation could paint the state as bigoted and intolerant"

    Haaaaaaa Haaaaaaaa Haaaaa!!! Like that hasn't been done already. Neil Young was right.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Harpman

    You people are paranoid. I am a legal citizen of the US, I have a valid drivers license as well as registration and proof of insurance as required by law and I carry them in my car. I am not at all afraid to drive in Alabama. Do you people not understand the definition of "illegal". If you don't enforce the law, you should not have the law. Had you rather have anarchy? Go to Gulf Shores and have a good time.

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

      obviously this german man was not here illegally and he was arrested.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonic10158

      thank you. too bad there's no "like" button

      November 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TiredODaCrap

    So, in the end, the paper decides to throw coals on a non-existent fire, in order to try to woo a manufacturer – It's just another story about greed!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joel

    Alabama is just backsliding into its past and its Jim Crow laws. What I really think would be censored. Oh, does it make any difference that Alabama has been ruled by the GOP for the last half century?

    November 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Check your facts, Joel, before you post.
      I'm originally from AL, a frustrated democrat (but certainly not a republican), not in support of the immigration law, but also not in favor or erroneous information. Alabama has enough legit problems, let's not add a half century of GOP rule to that list, please.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bellabiv Devot

    Sorry, but police taking a suspect into custody for driving without identification just makes sense.

    If the immigration laws aren't supposed to be enforced, what is the friggin' purpose of even having them?

    November 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      What good is a law intended to save american jobs if you end up losing 10,000?

      When ideology clashes with reason it isn't reason you should be worried about.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnM

      To show how proud to be ignorant and predjudiced those bama bums are. That's why.

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