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. TonyP

    The people calling the state of Alabama "racist" are just mad because Alabama is actually doing something about it's illegal immigration problem. They are trying to blur the lines between illegal immigration and legal immigration. Alabama is not doing anything that wouldn't happen when you travel to another country.

    The main people who call Alabama racist either

    (1) never been to the South
    (2) come to the South with preconceived notions based on 40+ year old videos
    (3) are illegal immigrants or pro-illegal immigration

    Does Alabama have racist? Yes just like every other state. Are all or most people in Alabama racist? No just like every other state.

    This is coming from a native born black Alabamian who no longer lives in Alabama.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      They do like to toss around the word "immigrant" without the adjectives of "legal" or "illegal"...guess they don't understand the difference.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    This was nothing more than a blatant attempt to get Mercedes to come to Missouri.
    Calling it anything but that is disingenuous.
    Alabama did nothing wrong, and if you ask me, they did everything *right*.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnM

      I'll bet your wife/sister told you to write that.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    All this guy needed was his passport which he should have been carrying anyway. His arrest clearly shows the law covers everyone regardless of skin color.

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

      A license plate would have helped as well.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Daniel

    and again, CNN leaves out the biggest piece of information as to why he was arrested...

    HE WAS DRIVING A AUTO WITHOUT A LICENSE!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gratular

    Its no secret what a terrible place Alabama is, and how racist and predominately ignorant your average Alabaman is.. Not to say there are not some non-racist, non-ignorant people in Alabama, but it is very hard to find..

    November 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynicalone

      I grew up in Alabama and find just the opposite true. What are your ties to the state...? Ever been there?

      November 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Little Miss Muppet

    It'd be perfect if Mercedes moved out of Alabama. "Alabama – we wrote the book on being stupid rednecks". There's my choice for the new state motto.

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

      I can't believe you'd say that! Obviously they wouldn't get every word spelled right. Try "Abalama – we done writ the buk on bein stoopid rednex!"

      November 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynicalone

      And you must have written the book on ignorance. BTW, Mercedes isn't leaving.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gratular

    Its funny, the Alabaman cops are illegal as well and their ancestors were likely from Germany before they came here an murdered American citizens to steal Alabama

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

      I think the immigration laws in states like Alabama should be required to ask everyone who are stopped by police for identification papers, including proof of citizenship or legal residency. First, this would minimize racial and ethnic profiling. And second, it would make sure that the law affects everyone in the state. I think the law would be far less popular in that case, but it would be much more fair.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Felipe Lopez

      Greg, if you don't currently live in Alabama, you need to move there.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      That is one of the main reasons I don't like the immigration laws. Very few people carry identification which proves their citizenship. By the way, the drivers license is NOT proof. It just means you have a place to live. Proof of that is an utility bill. Even illegal immigrants have this.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BBoy

    "Alabama" by Neil Young

    Oh Alabama
    The devil fools
    with the best laid plan.
    Swing low Alabama
    You got spare change
    You got to feel strange
    And now the moment
    is all that it meant.

    Alabama, you got
    the weight on your shoulders
    That's breaking your back.
    Your Cadillac
    has got a wheel in the ditch
    And a wheel on the track

    Oh Alabama
    Banjos playing
    through the broken glass
    Windows down in Alabama.
    See the old folks
    tied in white ropes
    Hear the banjo.
    Don't it take you down home?

    Alabama, you got
    the weight on your shoulders
    That's breaking your back.
    Your Cadillac
    has got a wheel in the ditch
    And a wheel on the track

    Oh Alabama.
    Can I see you
    and shake your hand.
    Make friends down in Alabama.
    I'm from a new land
    I come to you
    and see all this ruin
    What are you doing Alabama?
    You got the rest of the union
    to help you along
    What's going wrong?

    November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank

    Here we go – every single time any locality tries to pass a politically incorrect law and enforce it, CNN and the federal government go right after them.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • chefdugan

      Forget the law. I spent an year in that state and it sucks! Big time.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      Are you for real? It's people and corporations who are avoiding Alabama and that will turn the place back into a third-world state faster than the Feds or CNN ever could.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon Samuel

      How does an executive like this not have his passport with him? Imagine you are traveling in the UK or Germany and you are pulled over and you have no passport. This case was hanlded just as it should be.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      Jon – while you're right about the driver's license, virtually every travel book I've ever seen suggests you leave the passport in the hotel safe – NOT on your person due to muggings and pickpockets. I was stopped in France and they simply asked what hotel my passport was at – just part of the routine.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamey

      Jon- You have obviously not travelled outside the country. You do NOT carry your passport on you when you travel outside our country. That is the best way to have it stolen/lost. You keep your passport somewhere safe such as your safe in your hotel room. What are you, from Alabama or something? 😉

      November 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roy

      in response to replies...
      When did Alabama stop being on par with a Third-World country?
      and
      Consider that many Americans see nothing wrong with walking around with no identification whatsoever. That's something that I think SHOULD be illegal. You should always be able to identify yourself. Now I wouldn't travel in a foreign country without my passport. However, I have worked for weeks in foreign countries and yes... there were days that my passport–which doesn't fit in my wallet–was left in another jacket. So Yes, people do sometime forget to carry around the overly large passport book. If it were as simple as a driver's license–then it wouldn't be as much a problem.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Little Miss Muppet

    What about people like Prescott Bush (George's grandpa) who was a nazi supporter. Can we deport all of his family, too? Or are you selective in your deportations?

    November 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Will

    “Global corporations must be asking themselves whether their international employees — those with legal work permits — are welcome in Alabama.”
    I doubt that there is any "asking" going on as the answer is already known. If you're not a white, Christian, God-fearing bigot with an accent akin to that of a drunken pig farmer, you're not welcome in Alabama. Americans in the other 49 states have known this for decades. Time for the rest of the world to find out...

    November 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon Samuel

      Yes they are certainly welcome. But when traveling in a foreign country you should always have your passport on you. It's hard to believe we are even having this discussion about international travel 101.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      My family has been here since right after the Civil War. We came from southeast europe, so I have straight black hair and a complexion slightly darker than "white". My company is looking for a new location in the south east and absolutely no way will it be in Alabama for the simple reason that we refuse to contribute to the harassment of our (100% legal) employees.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne S

      Will, it's obvious you've never set foot in Alabama. This article is typical posturing by a paper in a state overrun with union thugs. Perhaps you'd rather we let everyone go who isn't able to proffer proof of citizenship when requested. Please don't come to the South – we'd rather have you keep your ignorant bigoted opinion ragarding the south and southerners than to put up with your insufferable pontifications on your views of the world here in the flesh. In fact, that's how we keep most of you ignoramuses out – by perpetuating the lies you believe about the South.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Felipe Lopez

    Way to go Alabama, in a few years your GDP per capita will be less then Yemen's.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brian

    Oh boy, here we go again. Boo hoo, they're denying us our basic human rights... What a load of crap. If you're an illegal alien, get out!!! Quit making excuses and trying to get the bleeding heart liberals fighting for you. If you are an illegal in the US, you are a criminal. Plain and simple.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • driranek

      Reading fail. The article is not about illegal aliens, it's about the discriminatory harassment of people who are not illegal aliens.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    How's that idiotic law working out for ya, Alabama morons?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      The law isn't idiotic at all, and in fact needs to be refined to cover more situations. Can you give any facts to back up your opinions that the law is idiot and that Alabamians are morons? If not then you yourself are an idiotic moron.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Nick–I would say the article itself is all the evidence a person with an IQ over 100 would need to prove both, but since you asked, the fact that you claim to be from Alabama and don't seem to be able to spell idiotic instead of idiot doesn't help your case either.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RBT

    So, if you are wealthy you don't have to follow the law, don't need to carry a passport or drivers license. Just don't get caught doing any of that if you are poor!

    November 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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