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. Michael

    And tell foreign execs to buy their mandatory obamacare health insurance before coming here, too.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SwilliamP

    The situation shows that comsmetic surgery of recent decades cannot forever conceal a diseased body and stony heart...

    November 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    How about when you go to another country, working, visiting etc. you actually try to follow the laws and try to understand the customs of that nation. Apparently if you come to the US none of that applies and you can just do as you please.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nellore Venkataraman

    HI Jon Samuel:
    Apparently you have not traveled much outside Alabama. I am an American Citizen and travel widely in U.K., France. Germany. Brazil, Peru, India. I always leave my passport inside the hotel locker and never carry it. I never had any problem. In many democratic countries, if you are not driving or cashing a check you do not need to carry any ID. This was true of USA also in the past.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nam Vet

    don't control thousands of jobs, but I can be a real pain to misguided wingnuts like the Alabama legislature.

    Since I can talk, walk and drive like a hick when I need to, I'll probably never be asked to prove my citizenship to the satisfaction of some local yokel cop. However, in the event that happens, my lawyer and I will both find ourselves financially enhanced from the proceeds of the lawsuits which will result. Outside of specific provisions in FEDERAL law (or in state law that is permitted by federal law), the burden of proof of my citizenship rest with the questioner. If you don't believe that, try denying me any right or privilege under the law and you will be the holder of a supoena to explain your frivolous actions in court.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DDXS

    These people put the Bam in Bama

    last in almost every measurable category of progress of any state (execpt Mississippi) for a reason

    November 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Victor Maffei

    We hear these stories increasingly more often, especially regarding voter ID. Yet, the idea of a national or state ID card (not a driver's license) policy is still frowned upon. What a sham!!!

    November 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      I'm all for LEGAL citizens having a form of identification.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 4sanity

    I have no problem with police asking for IDs – as long as it's done equally. So let's get a National ID card established with biometric (fingerprint, and facial regcognition data), criminal and financial history embedded on it. Of course ALL 300 million US citizens (including minors) will be required to carry this tamperproof ID on them at all times. Failure to do so, should result in arrest and a civil fine ($50 for first offense, and then progressively higher for non-compliance). And everyone will be required to pay the $365 (approx. equivalent to current immigration validation/biometric processing for legal immigrants). With revenue of $109 billion ($365 x 300million), that should nicely offset the cost of hiring the extra 100,000 ICE and law enforcement agents necessary to make a dent in raiding, arresting, processing, interring in concentration camps and then deporting the 12 million illegal immigrants. Perhaps along the way, we can subsidize food costs for the working poor because prices for staples are sure to rise with the lack of unskilled labor picking crops across the south.

    I don't see why anyone here would be against it. Just think how much easier it would be for police to track and find not just illegal immigrants, but also all those US citizens engaged in illegal activities and other anti-social behavior: potheads, crackheads, meth addicts, violent offenders, burglars, rapists, child molesters, murderers, tax cheats, DUIs etc. Although initially police and the justice prison system will be swamped with a huge influx of newly minted inmates caught for unsolved prior crimes that will have to be housed in new taxpayer funded prison facilities scattered liberally around the country, I'm sure it will have a chilling deterrent effect on crime rates in the long term (with a reduced prison inmate population below the current 1.1 %), as the police state mentality becomes the new reality.

    Alternatively, we could just acknowledge that illegal immigration is a problem that Federal and local law enforcement doesn't have a chance in h ell of solving, especially by having police arrest illegals (and forgetful Mercedes executives) one at a time at random traffic stops, but that politically can be resolved with amnesty and a workable guest worker program.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      Perhaps you ought to read "1984" by George Orwell and see if you still agree which what you just wrote.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      Your second approach is much more logical and civilized.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      1. Last time we gave amnesty is caused a huge influx of illegal immigration there by perpetuating the problem. So no, that won’t fix the issue.
      2. I’m laughing you think potheads are somehow anti-social.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joban

      You are a complete and utter moron.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • clr

      We should just shoot those sneaking over the border while they are crossing a few times – would do far more to stopping the illegals than anything else.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      It was tough reading through your comment to discover your point but I'll take a stab in the dark and assume that your alternative was the solution that you are suggesting. I tend to agree.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Percy

      Actually the problem is quite simple MANDATE" E "VERIFY it works. Then place heavy penalties for those who violate or cheat-PROBLEM solved 😉

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

      lax people, he's just pointing out what a lot people on the anti-immigration side want: A police state with mandatory papers to be carried at all times lest you come across an inquiring officer of the law demanding to see your papers who will throw you in jail if you can't produce them. It sure would make things safer wouldn't it? It certainly did for the old Soviet Union where I daresay that you were safer on the streets in the 70's than you were in New York or Dallas. As long as you had the proper papers and didn't say anything that was against the state that is.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      @Jim
      Irony doesn't always come out well in writing, but if you read the full post it's pretty clear you two are on the same page.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Rioux

      Wow. Awesome solution–except I do NOT want to live in the country you describe. You're throwing the baby out with the bath water, buddy. I don't want Fascism in my country, thank you!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dontbow

    Well if start really cracking down on employers and the checking where people work then we can hopefully get them all to flea by to where they belong -> MEXICO! We cant afford their poor people but its seems dumocrats cant figure that one out. Not too good with numbers or the law it seems.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rav

      I hope that you have not forgotten that George Bush and the cowardly Republicans did not when they were in office as well so you can pull your foot out of your mouth if you have not already. To be critical on Democrats and not also blame Republicans when even they did not have the moral courage to do anything as well is pretty hypocritical.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Andrew

    I've lived in Alabama for ten years. I'm also Asian-American.

    First, to those of you making "banjos and bedsheets" jokes: The Klan are not very active in Alabama. In fact, in the last decade, I can't recall a single report of Klan activity. Is that to say Alabama doesn't have its share of problems with racism and intolerance? Far from it. But show me a single city, state or country that doesn't, and I'll show you a bridge in Brooklyn I'd love to sell you. Alabama is a beautiful state with some very nice, down-to-Earth, hardworking people. Yes, as a liberal, I feel most of their politics are misguided, but they find my politics strange as much as I find theirs strange. If you judge all Alabamians, you are showing your ignorance, not theirs.

    To my fellow residents of the State of Alabama: You know the illegal-immigration bill is wrong. It's wrong on many levels. In tough times, around the world, throughout history, the immigrants are blamed. Don't make the same mistake. Furthermore, you know that it's going to carve a hole in the economy. It's not things like "Obamacare," it's things like this. This is proof positive. We've got Missouri chasing after Mercedes-Benz business because we're stopping legal immigrants in the streets. It's wrong-headed and misguided.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beadlesaz

      Andrew – thank you for a very well written post. I'm *Southern* by birth but have lived all over the U.S. There is no more racism in the South than there is any place else IMO. It sounds like you have a healthy view of the world and are willing to embrace diversity. Let me know when you are getting into politics – I'll volunteer on your campaign.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      He wasn't "Stopped in the street", there was a legitimate reason to stop him. If an illegal immigrant doesn't give police a reason to stop them or otherwise suspect them of criminal activity then they wouldn't be asked for their papers.

      The bill is headed in the right direction. We need to purge the criminals and send them back to the country they belong in.

      Any holes that are created will be short-term as legal citizens start filling in those gaps.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony from Western Maryland

      You probably have presented the most thoughtful comment I have read in a long time on CNN. You are right on the mark advocating that the law is misguided and although it is intended on making the attempt it does not fix the problems without possibly racial profiling.

      As you indicated that by being of "Asian" ethnicity you or your family and love ones would be vetted due to your features but like this story has indicated that this man was German and he was arrested simply for not having his papers? This is America not World War II Germany. Great post!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      “You know the illegal-immigration bill is wrong”

      How? Every time I’ve been pulled over I’ve had to give my drivers license. They run it to check for open warrants. Illegal immigration is ILLEGAL, as in crime. This is no different. Try driving around other countries without your paper work and see how they handle it. Trespassing, tax evasion and the various other crimes once here are NOT human rights.

      “We've got Missouri chasing after Mercedes-Benz business because we're stopping legal immigrants in the streets. It's wrong-headed and misguided”

      What does Mercedes-Benz have to fear from cracking down on illegal immigration? Are you suggesting they are smuggling in illegal’s to work the lines? I think not.. you are confusing one states attempt to take advantage of the PRESS with a moral compass.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony from Western Maryland

      One last thing... I too have traveled to Europe, Asia, Middle East and South America and I have never was stopped or asked to show my "Papers" by being an African-American. What we are seeing in this country is "Fear" of those who are not willing to compete for the opportunities in this world. Many have made it in this country by not what they know but who they know never having to become qualified for the jobs they have obtained as the "Good-ole Boy" network took care of them. Everyone should either be qualified for a job or obtain the qualification which is fair.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      To be fair, Andrew, you probably weren't invited to any KKK soirees.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Andrew, I am very glad that you are a resident of our great State. I have lived in Alabama all my life and you are right, it is a beautiful state with really nice people. We are having a problem that the federal government is not willing to help us
      with. These are not new laws, these are laws that are FEDERAL but they will not enforce them. What are we to do? The states now are running out of money and we are paying for people that are not even a citizen. I am not against anyone coming here and making a living if they do it the right way. Why can't people understand this?? Thank you for your vry nice letter and I hope for you the very best.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Stop the presses! Something painting Alabama as somehow bigoted and intolerant? Wow!

    November 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FormerExpat

    We lived in The Netherlands for five years where you are required from the age of 14 to carry your Alien Card(ID card for foreigners) with you at all times and show on demand if requested. Never tested the limits of this. When I travel to foreign countries I always have identification on me, only a fool would do otherwise.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Former– I beg to differ. I have traveled to more than 20 countries in the past 15 years (never made it to Netherlands), I have always followed the advise that you don't carry your passport on you unless you are moving from one country to another. Every travel site I have ever visited indicates that you should keep your passport locked in secure area so it is not stolen or lost(civilized countries at least). Maybe if you are on an extended stay this would change, but it sounds like the executive was not on an extended stay, just visiting for short time.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Well said Former. I’ve many family members in our various armed forces and they all say the same. I once commented what a pain that must be and in response I was told: Son you are in their house ,so you follow their rules.

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

      It wasn't that he didn't have a passport, he didn't have a picture ID. You stop someone because of an issue with their tag and then they don't have a picture ID....seems like a good reason to get detained, until everything is checked out. It would not have mattered if he was white, black, brown, grey or purple...the officers were doing their job and this would have happened even if the immigration bill wasn't passed.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sml

    The new immigration law is killing the farm industry in this state and its going to get worst. The best way to enforce
    immigrations laws to to hold the businesses accountable. But big business is greasing the pockets of the very same law makers. One of the biggest problem in Alabama i was told that is everyone is related and this messes the gene pool.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Peter E

    I find it ironic that Southern states even have such strict laws, since they also have the laxest standards for their own state IDs and drivers' licenses... Most of their own citizens wouldn't be able to abide by these new ID laws...

    November 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Copper;s Donut Shoppe

    Gotta love big 'Bama. Let theirown crops rot because of their stupidity.
    Habing know many Germans for a lot time I can tell 'Bama that this
    insult will be remembered and you will be loosing the plant.
    Not tomorrow or next month ~ but it the very near future.
    "Shoot yourself in the foot" is the state motto.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      How was it an insult? This article was more insulting.
      So the man was detained until he could be properly identified. It's not that big of a deal. People are blowing it way out of proportion and can't see that it is a law that is working as intended, and is a common sense law that should be in place throughout the country.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Hey Nick – The One in Alabama,
      Do you carry your passport or birth certificate with you everywhere you go? Why not? Why do I have to? Because I'm not white? If you answer YES, you're a bigot.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      Actually, I don't have a passport because I've never been out of the country. I am actually reluctant to get on a plane. I do however carry my drivers license with me wherever I go and I keep it current. Also, I'm a law abiding citizen so there is no reason for negative interaction with police.

      If you're a US citizen, regardless of skin color, all you need is your drivers license. You may be asked for more identification if you break the law however. But those who break the law deserve all the annoyances that come with being properly identified.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
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