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. Dietrich

    They should have a sign at every airport. If you dont speak the language, get the hell out of my country!

    November 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick - The One in Alabama

      Actually, having a functional understanding of the language of the country you are visiting or living in would be a good idea. If I were to travel to another country, I would try to at least learn a little bit of the country's primary language.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don Cougar Mellenhead

    Come on people, it is Alabama after all! Haven't we come to expect this from them by now?

    November 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe Rioux

    > 'a Chinese company... having second thoughts about... $100 million plant in... Thomasville because the company feels it isn't "welcome because of the immigration law.”'

    Damn straight. Chinese company is NOT welcome here, and not because of the immigration law. China is the greatest threat facing the U.S. today, on several fronts: economic, military, environment, natural resources, and human rights.

    Chinese factories: NO THANKS.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • owlvan

      Idiot, China is a big threat because they are letting us build factories there and employing their workers to build products. Not welcoming them in the states is like saying "No thanks, we don't want your money. We are happy in our own misery."

      November 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • FOOLS

      You see Joe, you are an idiot plain and simple and we were wondering in chruch Sunday, why Alabama was being attack by liberals from up north. Go back to your trailer and smoke your meth.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Abe Lincoln

    And I had to go to war to keep Alabama in the union. Only If I knew then what I know now.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nick - The One in Alabama

    I'm out! Everyone in the US have a safe and fullfilling Thanksgiving tomorrow.

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

      Thanks Nick, same to you. We'll play again after the game on Sat. Happy Thanksgiving. Roll-Tide!

      November 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. louisevitryhouse

    Alabama touts it's "Christian Values" but in the end shows the true meaning of hypocrite.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fearlessdude

    This is the result of 100 years of in-breeding.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Eagle One

    Roll tide..right on up to Illinois! Mercedes you are welcome in Chicago!

    November 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChazfromUtah

      Why would Mercedes locate to that disfunctional part of the world, why not move to Afghanistan?

      November 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smash

      So what happens when you drive in Missouri without a drivers license? If you're in a Benz you're set free but if in a Chevy, you go to the slammer?

      November 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      You will still need proper I.D., even in Germany.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • mhm

      A German citizen has no excuse for driving without a license on their person in this country.


      Because the law is the same in Germany.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bubba

    Jesus returned and was forced to go back because he didn't have a passport.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeepers

      Jesus Gonzales?

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

      I wouldn't be surprised if it really does happen.. assuming there will be a second coming of jesus ofcourse..

      November 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • mhm

      In that case I say keep the law. We have enough religious fanatics already without his presence.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobcat (in a hat)

    Ah, Alabama, you do make a nation proud.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. pkupp

    See, the liberals were right about racial profiling!

    How dare they arrest this white middle-aged man for not following the law! This is an OUTRAGE I tell ya!

    November 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Ur a clucking idiot!

      November 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • DNA

      The 'liberals' were also right when they said that fascists will make a bunch of stupid laws.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      This sad attempt @ sarcasm just goes to show you how ignorant and out of touch rednecks and tea baggers are.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Girly

      You, sir definitely qualify for a visa to Alabama. Unless you're already there, which might explain a lot. Do you seriously not see that this isn't a libs vs cons issues?

      November 23, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Hey girly....nice try to shift the obvious sweet t!ts

      November 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      So true. The NERVE of those Alabama cops...Arresting a guy that sounds like the bad guy in Die Hard, driving around with no tags or paperwork....I mean COME ON people.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Paul Willson

    Stupid BAma way stupid makes you look very bad.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DNA

    Yeah, Alabama can keep growing tomatoes, that's about all the locals are smart enough to deal with, apparently. Most of them will never see a Mercedes in their lifetime, anyway. LOL, alabama.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      Your so ignorant.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • heliocracy

      Tough talk from someone who can't spell "you're."

      November 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • djwazu

      My neck is as red as a tomato and I still drive my GTO

      November 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snow

      As offensive as DNA's comment seem, statistical numbers about educational qualifications and economic status of individuals living in the state does support his statement..

      November 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      I did not realize it was 899 and we were using Middle English... anyways!

      November 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jdizzle1337

    See Alabama this is why you cant have nice things.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. craig

    In can't fix Dumb!

    November 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
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