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. mendrys

    While I do think sane immigration laws are necessary I think Alabama's law goes too far. I've spoken to a lot of anti-immigrant people who would love it if we built a large fence barbed wire and manned, armed sentry posts across both of our borders.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      How does it go too far? Not to discredit your opinion. I'm genuinely interested.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mark Couvillion

    Just another lame excuse for Shouthern bashing. Can we move on to something more intelegent?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yannaes

    Illegals, are illegal by definition! Good for Alabama for not being politically correct.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lunchbreaker

    My question is why this is part of the immigration bill, when it applies to everyone, alien or citizen?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      That's actually a really good question. I'm assuming it's because of the way laws work. It's faster to attach it to a new law than to try to change an existing one.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Roll Tide

    i have been reading so many of these comments about how bad Alabama is and it is far from the truth. I have lived here all my life and just llike in any state there is good people and bad. But we have a law that is trying to protect not only our people but all people in the US. When this policeman pulled this guy over for a imporper tag and he had no id on him how was this officer to know if he could of been a terriost or not. Come on folks we have got to stand up for what is right for this country.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Juan Carlos Queipo

    Police are stupid everywhere in the world, but give them another reason to "shine" and they will take it !!!

    November 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don R.

    Hummmm lets think back...wasnt the GERMANS that tattooed identification on people ?

    Heres the deal, it AMERICA, be glad all we ask for is IDENTIFICATION – all we ask is that you follow the LAW or we'll arrest you until we determine youre here LEGALLY, determine youre not a terrorist or we'll simply deport you !

    November 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cynicalone

    Hey wjmknight! Thanks for asking! Weather is probably a bit warmer now than in the 19th century. We're just carrying on business as usual here in Alabama. Trying to ignore ignorant posters, etc, you know how that is. Otherwise, we're just going about the business of trying to help put together the new generation of rockets in Huntsville. Down here in Birmingham we're just puttering about in our labs...putting to good use the money the NIH has given us to keep the CCC (that's Comprehensive Cancer Center if you are wondering), just returned from the National Neuroscience Conference in Washington DC where we introduced a hot topic. Well, got to run now but again, thanks for asking. You must have been to Walmart checking those items out...what isle are they on...? I've never seen them...must be big sellers in your go out there and YOU "get er done", whatever that means in homer talk....have a good day.

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

      Yes, your keeping afloat with all imported brain power. Alabama doesn't produce much. As Employment picks up in the country. You will have an exodus of these people. To more friendly states.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Phil

    This case was handled properly. Try getting pulled over in another country and not have your passport. Straight to jail. You guys have no clue and you say Alabama is backwards....Wow.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Exactly. Try it Germany and especially China.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Felipe Lopez

      Alabama is backward.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • hadrian33

      Where overseas have you traveled? At least in most of Western Europe the authorities advise you to leave your passport in your hotel to avoid losing it to pick-pockets. Until our government started requiring passports to re-enter from Canada and Mexico, neither of those countries required that US citizens carry their passports. In Russia you must register with the local police upon arrival and are given a certificate. However the only time you are required to produce it is upon leaving the country.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      Absolutely wrong. I was in Germany with no papers with me and I got away with warning.
      Please travel some and you will will realize how nice people are.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Actually Phil, I've been in Europe many times and have even been pulled over for minor infraction (released with warning) as well as Mexico (paid small fine). I gave police my driving information but was not asked for my passport. There was never any threat of being arrested. If you are comparing this to a third world nation, then you are completely missing the point. I really couldn't care less if Alabama pulls their heads out of their asses and joins the 21st century (I'm all for states rights), but be prepared for the economic results when you don't.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • showtime showtime

      Actually I've been pulled over in both Italy and Germany. I showed them my US issued Driver's license, took my ticket, and was on my way. In fact, the only place that had an issue with me, was the Swiss border, and they were mostly concerned with my car's legitimacy, not mine. Alabama is full of bigots, the whole world knows it.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Hey Phil,
      What makes white American kids more privileged than my Texas-borned American son who's father (me) immigrated here from South Viet Nam after the fall of Saigon? Why does my son have to carry his birth certificate with him if he's ever in Alabama while no white American kid born in Texas or otherwise does not? It's not a trick question.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John C

      Phil, you don't have any idea of what you are talking about. I have been pulled over in the UK and in Germany, as well as Brazil, and I never had a problem. The UK cop asked me if "I had my driver's license with me?". I showed him my Texas DL, he gave me a verbal warning. Essentially, the same thing happened in Germany. I had very nice conversations with both officers. The one from Germany spoke very good English. The one from the UK commented on how he enjoyed going to the States and thought having American tourists was great. Brazil was similar, adding several AK-47s in. The officer had to get another who spoke English. They explained that they pulled over random cars to combat drugs. He asked to search my luggage. He pulled out the smallest bag, barely opened it, then said I was free to go.

      You shouldn't profile, but you must use good sense. How many we'll dressed people, obviously from Germany, driving a rental car, are in Alabama illegally? Man, "y'all shore do make it difi-cult on yoselves, don't y'all"

      November 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • terre08

      Yes I have been pulled over in other countries and you certainly don't get arrested for driving without a license in Europe. At most a fine.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Ignorant! I have been pulled over in Germany, even when my back-firing, red Mustang with Minnesota plates drew attention, and then again many years later in a rental car. Pulled over for speeding, once for (well) running a red light (by accident) and NEVER had to show anything but my Minnesota driver's licence or later my California driver's licence. The dimmer wits here seem to be ASS-U-MING the world is 'hostile' and throws you into a dungeon... here is another one. Once I had a few to drink and they made me blow turning the gizmo green. I expected to be 'hauled off' in shackles to a German gulag; yet, I wasn't even cuffed by the Muenster police department. Politely asked to take a seat in the rear of the squad car and later taken back to my car when it was determined I still WAS within legal limits. The initial minor speed infraction cost me about $5.
      On my last visit a group of young (six I think?) Americans had piled into a small rental car like people from Africa or Turkey do and got pulled over by police. The penalty? They were 'escorted' back to the rental place and made to get a proper car. No Fine! Don't expect the same 'courtesy' in America!
      Conversely, foreigners coming to America (especially tourists and business people from Europe) are warned of 'draconian' penalties. And now should add 'possible arrest and mandatory court appearances' to their caution list...

      November 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ David
      Show me to law that says that.
      I’m sorry sir but your race cardhas been denied, would you like to try another?

      November 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jerad

    This arrest shows the motivation behind this law isn't racial as so many try to suggest.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      You're right. It's just backwards and myopic.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BeSpee

      LOL like you actually believe this law is meant for "all people". If that was the case the only ones who couldn't have to carry "proper" ID would be the ones who was in this country before we came here. What this incident shows is how stupid it really is. If MB moved that would be so funny.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Don’t be a sore loser Be. Your sides cry of racism has been proven wrong. Do you really think they went hunting for a ‘white guy’ just so they could justify the law?

      “If that was the case the only ones who couldn't have to carry "proper" ID would be the ones who was in this country before we came here”

      This is the dumbest statement I’ve seen on here.. and that’s saying something. I can only assume you meant “Native Americans’. These so called natives (which we know in fact were not native to the Americas) were small tribes spread out across an enormous landscape. In no way where they a country. .They were primitive cultures that got conquered, period. The same as what they had been doing to each other for hundreds of years.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RillyKewl

    Ha, ha ha, gotta love that southern hospitality. See ya later, Rednecks.
    Are they still lynching people in Alabama, or have they just run out of white sheets again?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Well I am so glad that you don't stereotype. Looks like doing it your way has worked out real well for California.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • terre08

      Maybe you should return all the funds you have received from the tax payers in other states. The deep south are the real "welfare queens"

      November 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. borysd

    Is it still legal to diddle your kin in Alabama?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Walker

      it is still their inspired past time, Arkansas too

      November 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. the_dude

    I wonder if I was in Germany do I have to carry my papers around with me or not? I would think a smart executive who travels the world routinely would know to carry id. Only ghetto people do not carry id.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • r. diamond6

      dude, (small d).
      have you been in the ghetto to verify that statement?
      Another Child Left Behind?

      November 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mark

    Guess he should have had his ID then huh?

    November 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ipmutt

    Where is the coverage regarding Jimmy Fallon and Michele Bachman. If a democrat was attacked like this there would be women going crazy. But if a republican woman is attacked or a democrat man attqacks a women everything is ignored and womend in particular do not respond. Says a lot about the democrats and mainstream media,

    November 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Mutt– Are you spending your day posting this same ignorant message? As you have been told numerous times, this story was on the front page of CNN earlier today and is still available if you utilize search.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • South Sider1

      Well let's see, Bachman is a Lying A_s B__ch so what's the problem?

      November 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
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