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. ChairmanBuzz

    Alabama is about the most christian conservative right-wing state in the union. Backward rednecks believing that God will put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. Most workers there are blessed, they say, to have a GED. With the exception of Hunstville, where the space center is located, you'd be lucky to gather enough noggin's to collectively across the entire state to have the brains cells for a dozen PhD's. I'd move my production plant to TN to replace the already install Saturn production plant that GM decided to cut. Why go to Missery?

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

    It is absolutely amazing how uninformed/misinformed and just flat out ignorant and stupid rednecks and tea baggers are! Did anyone see the new independant study out that shows Fox News "fans" are dumber or more misinformed and uneducated then not only all other news watchers, but also than those who dont watch or read any news at all. Why do they continue to bend over for the Faux News entertainers abd allow them to spell "stupid" on the backs and foreheads in their bigoted hot come?

    November 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • lucianne

      So they can help the kind, generous 1% who, according to Niall Ferguson, are playing poker for high stakes so the proceeds can go to helo the poor little school children. Sort of like the slaves supporting good ole massa. They feel right to home.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LS from Canada

    Is Foghorn Leghorn from Alabama?

    November 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cscann

    Travel anywhere in the world and you will need proper I.D. Half you idiots would never travel without your proper ID. I believe that one of the 9/11 terrorist was pulled over with conflicting address. OOPS!!! learn to be held accountable. A LAW IS A LAW!

    November 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NoTags

    Alabama would deserve it if Mercedes-Benz moved. Alabama is one of the most backwards States in this nation and you can see this just by looking at their two U.S. Senators.

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

      Sure. Because we ALL KNOW that life in California is PERFECTLY SANE and normal. Especially regarding the state's budget. 10 more years, and that State is DONE. DONE DONE DONE...Might as well rename it Califouega, or something like that.

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

      NOTAGS, Where do you live?

      November 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bubbuh

    Stupid is as stupid does Forrest... Alabama is the only reason I question evolution as I can't see how we went from caveman to those idiots.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    You stupid libs are concerned with ONE situation that caused ONE very rich, very FOREIGN man a small inconvenience? See, the problem with you dopes is that you have all forgotten that US Citizenship is a PRIVELEGE, not a RIGHT. What if this guy had been from Russia, rented a car, put a bomb in it, and was planning on driving it to the mercedes factory? Don't carry ID? Then you go to jail. If that means that Jose and Lupe can't drive around and wreck ANOTHER car without consequences, then I'm FINE with it. Here's my license. As far as how Alabama looks? Not hurt at all.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YouSay

    It's interesting that when I visited Germany, I had to carry my passport at all times. Yet, we shouldn't require them to do the same in the US?
    As for illegal Hispanic immigrants, I challenge you to sneak into Mexico and see how"welcoming" their authorities are towards you. But no worries. When you're promptly arrested, just ask them for "amnesty". They'll allow you to stay.
    In prison, that is.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      lol...so true. But arguing with stupid libs is like sticking your hand in a blender. Makes no sense.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • illegal american

      I'm an American and I lived in Mexico illegally for years. Everyone was kind to me, and I even found employment at four times the average wage, plus used state-funded hospitals and doctors offices, including getting surgery twice- and I never paid a dime (or peso) for it. So, I'd say if you try to sneak into Mexico illegally, you'll find that they're pretty nice.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      I have chosen you at random to illustrate the epic proportion of critical thinking skills that you are advocating on behalf of. Much like a kindergartner, I will give you one thought and maybe you can start your very own thinking session. While you were in Germany, if you had walked from the hotel down to the McDonalds and forgot your "papers", do you honestly think for one second that you would have wound up in jail if a police officer had asked you what you were doing (lets just assume that you acted reasonably)? Living illegally and visiting guests are polar opposites. (this is just one thought, I hope you get the point. Now you give it a shot)

      November 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dianne

      AMEN to You Say!!! My husband and I have traveled together and individually out of our country several times. Each and every time, the first thing we are told BEFORE we leave the USA is keep your passport on your body at all times. News stories like this are that...a story, reported in a skewed style, at the cost of anyone's reputation. This time it happens to be anyone from the state of Alabama. Hey CNN, I really don't expect any different from you since you are so biased with your support of persons with a liberal agenda. So stretch the truth until it is a lie...you're famous for that!

      November 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      Obviously you are not a jet skier.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Illegal American is full of BS. Also, why would you sneak in their to besgin with? To many holes, you are a fraud.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      JON... We are talking about being pulled over in a car.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      Brad, thank you. Obviously he was original in the U.S. legally and then returned to his native land illegally.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • BCC

      Exactly.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      YOUSAY and DIANE My comment was for your benefit. You are just like eighth graders arguing with first graders. As an adult stepping in, and giving you a proper train of thought, you will both continue to argue your invalid point, stick your fingers in your ears, and refuse to accept that you are wrong. If you had been in Iran or North Korea your situations would lead to confinement. Is that whowe should model ourselves after?

      November 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • illegal american

      I'm not BS, it's a true story. I arrived with a 6 month tourist visa, which they give all Americans (F2, I think), I got married, it expired, I kept living there, and I became an illegal. Since I married a Mexican, I was able to apply for and receive a one-year residency card, which I could have renewed but I didn't, so I was illegal. Either way, the residency card didn't permit me to work, which I did (you need to find a job that's willing to sponsor your application for a work visa to do that, but the application cost a hundred or so dollars, so I didn't do it). To obtain citizenship you must have a residency card (or three different ones, since they last one year only) for three years. You can't come and go, either, since when you leave the country they ask for your papers, whether it be your little F2 tourist visa or residency card (it was more like a passport) or whatever, and they keep them there at the airport. Since I'm married to a Mexican, I go to Mexico several times a year, when we don't live there. And I didn't use the state-run hospitals because of my marriage- they never even asked me for my papers or ID or anything, I even went by myself once. No, the people there are really nice and they aren't xenophobic pendejos like here. It's cute that you said it was BS, though, but no, it's just my life. Happy holidays all the same ojete (:

      November 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      CSCANN, you sound like you are otherwise, an intelligent person. Now look at BRADS postings. Do you really to appear before everyone looking as though your thoughts align with his? He seems to represent the mindset of the majority of people here that are siding with this action. Even before I see his next post, 5-1, it will be half literate and ludicrous.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • illegal american

      @ cscann and brad. I'm actually a 26 year old "she" not a "he" and I'm of Irish/British/German decent. Thanks for playing the guessing game anyways! What I do know is this: if you met me on the street you'd think I was a very nice, polite, white, American girl, and if I met you I'd probably think you were just another ignorant American. And that's why I married a Latino- because he has more sense, dignity, and humanity that the average arrogant American guy (my husband, Francisco, is currently studying his Ph.D here in the US and has written two books. What are you doing with your lives?)

      November 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Did the German police stop you and ask for your passport? If not STFU.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annette

      I visit Germany several times a year as well as Denmark, the UK and The Netherlands and I never carry my passport when I am out. My driver's licence I carry when I will be driving. I have never in 14 years had a German policeman ask for my passport or driver;s license. I have been told in Denmark not to carry it because of the danger of losing it or having it stolen, but to leave it in the hotel.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WILEY 1

    I find it odd that Mercedes Benz decided to open a manufacturing plant in Alabama. The only reason I can think of is that it's a non-union state. Go figure. I also find it odd that Mercedes Benz North American HQ is based here in NJ and they wouldn't open a plant in a state with almost 10% unemployment. Again, here Unions Rule the Roost. Most underworked and overpaid people in the nation............next to NY.

    So, Alabama with the most biased law enforcement next to Ariz, was their choice.

    Hmmm.....?

    November 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimh77

      Wiley 1, Alabama laws were not always what they are today. If it were me that endured what the exec went through, You bet Mercedes would vacat that state in 24 hours. Shut it all down and move on. That's what I would do. So I guess we see what they do now. Screw Alabama.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ljliea

    WOW, such negative and racist comments! The officer who caught the guy was doing his job. If other states followed the same suite that Alabama did we probaly wouldnt have so many illegal immigrants we have now. But I see so many comments how Alabama is pretty much stupid.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annette

      Sorry Alabama we in other states prefer to have our cops catch criminals. But feel free to continue with your higher crime rate,

      November 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. kanank

    Shame on you Missouri for this cheap publicity stunt. Let us see the hypocrisy of Missouri here. Missouri thinks it can put such a nice ad to lure Mercedez just because a German citizen who happens to work for Mercedez got arrested. Would Missouri advertise to lure illegal residents of Missouri if 100s of illegals were arrested for lack of paper. What does this say Missouri's motive? Missouri's motive is money and not people or their rights. It is unfortunate that a foreigner got arrested for lack of papers. In the same token, it could have been a US citizen. Would Missouri lure all Alabama legal residents because a US citizen got arrested under the same scenario?

    Shame on your Missouri.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ourkie

    Thanks to the idiot Southern conservatives, America looks stupid again. Thanks!

    November 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Decoty

      stupid for inforcing the law.I don!t think so.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    Stories like this seriously make me want to shave my head, darken my tan and go to Alabama.

    As a man of hispanic descent (third gen), the instant I shave my head its obvious what my roots are, but with a full head of hair I easily pass as just another white boy.

    I would relish the utter joy it would bring me to bait these hypertensive ultra-territorial rednecks into pulling me over every 12 miles just so I could flash my DL and grin, and tell the younger ones,"hey man... I've been a citizen of this country longer than you have. How about YOU show ME your papers?"

    And the best part is, these dumb country bumpkins would probably lose their temper so horribly at being IRL trolled they'd assault me, giving me free reign to sue their district and bankrupt the hell out of it, providing lulz to the masses.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      These immigration laws protect you, see, this white boy doesn't see you as hispanic, white, black or anything. I first and formost see you as a citizen of the USA. Between you and any illegal, I would give you the job first, plain and simple. That is the point. Your life, your comfort, and your benefits should always come before an illegals.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • RCLM

      This man was not pulled over because he looked Hispanic. He was German, a "white boy". He was pulled over for a traffic violation. The violation was the fault of the rental company and not the driver. The driver, who did not have ID, was released without charges once he provided ID and proof he was legal. No different than an American driving without his license.

      Your attempt to show racial profiling fails

      November 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brad

    So all the mexicans were so afraid of profiling, and looky here, a white german gets busted. Course, he was given proper channels and a chance to prove he was there legaly, and allowed to go about his buisness. Looks like the law is working, and best of all, Americans desperate for jobs got to get the jobs the illegals had, and the growers are having to pay them fair wages, win win.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carlos

    Dear Fellows

    sorry to say this but your lack of knowledge about other countries is horrific....in some countries in Europe like Germany for instance, the driver licenses are not iqual as the one we are used to, over there they are made of carton board and don`t have a picture of the person...it has yes the general information of the driver but that is about it...the ignorance of the police man and many of the people in the US is driving this country crazy.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      I just looked up several examples of German Drivers liscense along with some other euro countries liscenses, and you are full of &*%t. They pretty much look like ours.

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