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. clr

    Germany's laws are even tougher... so I doubt he has an issue

    November 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Hank

    We here in Alabama were warned that this was a bad law, but no one had the courage to stand up to the rush to pass it. It was a mistake and sooner or later will be repealed. This law is cruel and had devastated the lives of many people.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      The only people it effects are illigal imigrants and their families and employers. They should well know the risks of being in this country illegally. Send them home to their country of origin and punish those who employ or harbor them in this country.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emerson

      @nick What does that mean for me? Im a Mexican-american my grandparents parents were born in mexico i speak fluent spanish and english you look at me i look full blooded mexican does that mean if i get pulled over for not using my turn signals properly does that mean i better come up with my birth certificate because i have my TX DL but no where on there does it say weither im legal or not?
      Because I'd feel like my privacy has been breached and as an american citizen i would love to live my life w/o worried on weither im going to be harrased today or not. pretty unfair dont u think?

      November 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Percy

    What successful upcoming company would want to set up shop in Missouri?,I can't think of any either. Do the numbers Crime,Weather,Unions & Taxes just to mention a few drawbacks.This is the very reason most are moving South.Sorry if the truth hurts 😉

    November 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Percy

    What successful upcoming company would want to set up shop in Missouri?,I can't think of any either. Do the numbers Crime,Weather,Unions & Taxes just to mention a few drawbacks.This is the very reason most are moving South.Sorry if the truth hurts

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

    Lots of luck ST Louis. Are you going to promise Mercedes no forced Union Labor?

    November 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    Come to think about, Alabama might have had a chance to beat LSU at Bryant Denny Stadium had the Tuscaloosa police just arrested Brad Wing (LSU's punter) for not having his Australian passport.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      Actually, Alabama would have beat LSU if the ref had called the play right. He had control of the ball when he hit the ground, and the LSU player pulled it out after he hit the ground. It was clearly not an interception.

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

    Relax 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 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      That's where freedom of speech come in 😉

      November 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dietrich

    Come on people. illegals are out of control in this country and I dont blame the police for doing their job. He should have known better as a visitor to have passport and driver license with him.

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

      That's right. Come on...up here to a real state and bring the jobs with you. Thanks!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Go Cards

      Yeah... cause there are SO MANY illegal Germans in America.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Never had to carry around a passport when I was in Germany!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mendrys

      So the people who tell you what to think have you all worked up do they? He was carrying his German ID but not his passport as travellers are told NOT to carry their passport with them at all times lest it get stolen.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      lol, Alabama, arrest the wrong people and lose foreign companies doing business in Alabama. lol

      November 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Hand

      When this was enacted everyone "knew" it was "ok" just because it really was only going to be used against the "Mexican" illegals. this is what happens when you give in to hysteria and sign away your rights – not only are you really less free but you look stupid following your rules based on your prejudices. And I have spent a lot of time in Germany, never once was bothered for my passport much less threatened with arrest for not having my "papers", Call this what it is – an embarassment to the US.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Funny thing is, when visiting Mexico, I am never asked for my passport or any I.D. Maybe M-B should move their factory to Mexico.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Viper1j

      Is Alabama still a state? Let's put them out with the rest of the trash, and move Benz to a place that will actually appreciate them. Things won't change, until Alabama stops shooting itself in the foot.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Schmedley

      so you'd rather throw away thousands of higher paying factory jobs for local residents to keep out a bunch of migrant fruit pickers making sub-minimum wage?

      Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Good luck, you'll need it when all that foreign investment and jobs goes to another state.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. zedthehead

    Funny to see ignorant, prejudice people call others ignorant and prejudice....You guys are worse than the racist in Alabama

    November 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Percy

    What successful upcoming company would want to set up shop in Missouri?,I can't think of any either. Do the numbers Crime,Weather,Unions & Taxes just to mention a few drawbacks.This is the very reason most are moving South.Sorry if the truth hurts 😉

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

      You're absolutely right Percy, there's no crime, unions nor taxes in the south.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Amy

    David, No he is not a bigot, no we don't always have passports, but we are citizens and have drivers licenses. If you don't want or need a drivers license, you can get a non driver ID card. Don't presume you know everything about people you have never even met.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      Truer words were never spoken Amy 🙂

      If you're a legal citizen, abide by the law and get proper identification. It's not that difficult.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. me

    This law also has an effect on legal aliens. Many immigrants have a fear of the law and this is only serving to drive them out of AL even though they have a legal right to be there.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Zark

    smart ideal ship all the ileals back to mexco then out source all the jobs with them ,then see how long it will take ala to go banckruptcy,
    leve them alone let them work and earn a living
    when was the last time a red neck took ajob from a mexacan,red necks wont work for $10/15 an hr
    how much $$$$did alba loos on tourest not coming to your state i hope benz moves out to another state . country
    you yanks ar nuts when it comes to your police state 3.1/2 mil of yankes in jail babys sleeping in parks intents
    shame on you shame shame on you
    you yanks are sheep meer sheep your country is a police state you don't have the balls to stand up to the law makers who are taking away your const, rights

    thank god i live in canada,, Zark

    November 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      your english sucks....i know they read and write english north of the border....french too

      November 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mark

    Haha the show me state.. show me the money because that is all we care about... lets move all the illegal immigrants from California to Missouri and see how long before they start back pedaling on their trash talk. Its easy and sleazy for a 3rd party to talk #&^! about another state when they don't have to deal with its consequences.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    lol, Alabama, arrest the wrong people and lose foreign companies doing business in Alabama. lol

    November 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
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