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. PaulTinEG

    The article's writer should've checked the spelling of the German word "gemüchlichkeit" (the ch in the middle of the word should be replaced by the letter t) and he should not have shown his ignorance by suggesting that visiting Mercedes executives should always carry their immigration papers. A passport is not an immigration paper.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Missouri's ShowMe Reputation

    Missouri. Haun's Mill. Extermination Order. Yes, they sure have a history of love.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brian

    Looks like the news is the news.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Flip it

    Just wondering what would happen to me if I was pulled over in Germany without any papers or a passport...probably the same thing and I would fully understand...don't really see what the issue is – as an educated executive he should have known better and from a law enforcement standpoint appears racial profiling is not taking place. In terms of overall immigration would like to see the federal government enforce what is already in books so states would not feel compelled to take matters into their own hands.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annette

      I have been pulled over in Germany, no one asked to see my passport. I did show my driver's license. I have also been pulled over in other European countries and have never shown my passport. My last trip to Germany I even left my passpor accidently in Brussles at a friend's house no problem in Germany, Austria or The Netherlands. They have totally open borders once you are in the EU. I don't plan to carry my passport in the US so I don't plan to spend money in Alabama.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RCLM

    The idea a Chinese company would not feel welcome because of the immigration law is a bunch of BS. The law targets those here ILLEGALLY not those who are here legally.

    You would think a big company executive would know to carry his passport and ID with him in a foreign country. If an American citizen were pulled over for a traffic stop and did not have a license on them they would be arrested too.

    What would happen to an American in Germany driving without a passport or license?

    Another thing the article mentions is the illegals left and Americans were able to get jobs.

    Alabama should be applauded not ridiculed.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WHOOSH

    Im out of here too. This stuff makes me hungry. Merry Thanksgiving to all!
    Roll-Tide

    November 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J in NC

    The south is screwed up. Period. You don't have to be from Germany to be treated this like this. They're still fighting the civil war.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RAY

    I live in Alabama and we will be glad to send you all of our illegals Missouri .

    November 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Touch of Irony

      I'm sure they'll be happy to take the new jobs as well.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      Keep sending us the international corporate jobs too, as many multinational companies seem to be finding the law ridiculous.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Ray, you will certainly loose jobs in Alabama ..... you won't be able to get a job when the immigrants leave because the industries that employ them will leave as well ..... you see they've discovered that bigots (like yourself) don't have the good old "American" work ethic that the immigrants have ...

      November 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      If a business needs illegals to make it, they should fail. if you cant play fair get out.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • CircusTrainer

      some things just dont seem to change in America – we already went thru this in the 60's – civil liberties – Rather than moving backwards – towards your racist past – be progressive. After all your parents were not Native Americans

      November 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • midwestmatt

      And we'll be happy to watch all your conservative, Republican voting, farmers watch their crops rot in the fields because your beloved law scared away all the laborers who've been making their agriculture industry profitable and possible.

      I'll take an illegal immigrant over an ignorant, short sighted, conservative any day.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      The appropriate expression is : "Cutting off your nose to spite your face." Dumb is as dumb does. You complain about needing jobs, then you do everything to scare off any reasonable potential employer. Dumb!

      November 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      People always forget, we take in over 1 million legal immigrents a year, we could have some come to pick, i believe we already have a visa for picking.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carlos

    me again, another problem of you people is that YOU don`t read properly: Read properly!!! Here is the most important part of the note...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.

    "The Man Didn`t have handy what THE STATE considers proper identification" he has his German License, again in Germany and France The Driver`s License are very different than the one in The US, Canada, Mexico, Etc. I had something similar in Chicago with a friend from France...we got pulled over near O`Hare....we were on a rented Car, when the officer ask for the license (my friend was driving) she had her french license, the officer did not know what to do or say...They Don`t Know! so again, is a lack of knowledge about other countries systems...

    November 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      If i was in Germany i would have to carry my passport with me every where, why is it different when you are in the USA?

      November 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • retphxfire

      pogo: If you lived and worked in Germany, for several years, you'd still continue to carry your passport around? hmmmm Just hope you don't lose it, now that would be inconvenient. sheesh, people

      November 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sajor

      pogojo. Again, ignorance is your vanguard. Where you traveling in Germany, your passport would be at the hotel's front desk, as required by their laws.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      I would, i carry legal ID every where. even as a citizen.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      The hotel in the USA kept his passport?

      November 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    Illegal immigration has to be gotten under control.......no matter who has to be inconvenienced in the process.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • At what cost?

      That inconvenience of which you are speaking is our economy which can't afford any more meddling by near-sighted policies designed to win political points. I'm always amazed by those who want this problem controlled at any cost being the ones who are screaming loudest that the government is spending too much money. If you are worried about jobs my suggestion is to get an education so that your job can't be taken by someone who just crossed the border.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      Randomly targetting people during traffic stops and pushing for papers is hardly going to cure the immigration dilemna. And, putting selective enforcement of pushing for docs in the hands of every local officer can end up with more bigotry than actual illegals.

      Anyway, not everyone against the law is "for" illegals. They just don't necessarily think Alabama, with its insanely low illegal count, is handling it right.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobfromMo

      Yeah, let's destroy human rights to get that illegal immigration problem under control.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      People are looking at it wrong, illegal immagration is destroying human rights, if it was not happining there would be no problem.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      "gotten" is not actually a real word.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DonJose

    It's Alabama. Nothing more needs to be said.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill from MO

    Another reason why I don't care too much about the Mercedes brand. Not only is it a kraut car but it's a kraut car made by a bunch of inbred toothless hoosiers! HAHAHAHAHA no thanks!

    November 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • midwestmatt

      Aren't Hoosiers typically from Indiana? Even the toothless ones?

      Fail.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Change

    Alabama concerned about illegal immigration? They must be kidding! Alabama, a former confederate WELFARE state that benefited from four hundred years of FREE SLAVE LABOR? No Alabama, look at your not so glorious history and remember that it were immigrants and slaves who built your state and every southern federate state in the Union. And may I add an Alabama that was not ashmed that the Montgomery Bus Boycott had to be orchestrated by descendents of slaves so that their civil rights could finally be recognized? There's a saying, those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Well Alabama, it seems that you haven't learned anything from the Civil Rights movement and nothing from the 1964 Civil Rights legislation outlawing this kind of racism and discrimination in America. An Alabama that benefited from four hundred years of free slave handouts...Well, shame on you Alabama!

    November 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobfromMo

      Right on. Alabama is a parasite on the country. Much more federal $$ goes into the state to subsidize its deviant behaviors than flows into Washington in the form of taxes. They should secede again, and we'll celebrate.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ALCherokee

    I am sorry that so many disparage my state with such vast ignorance. If any of you commentators had been in Alabama other than drunk at gas stations near the interstate as you passed through to Panama City as rowdy teenagers, I think would have very different impressions. Alabamians are overall a very thoughtful, friendly, intelligent, and generous people. I grew up in a rural community in which some of my family has lived since 1813 and two of my best friends were the children of (legal) Iranian and Mexican immigrants. Their parents were fully accepted and integrated into the community. The anti-illegal immigration law has gotten a lot of bad publicity, and I may have mixed feelings about parts of it, but the fact is the people who are arrested are not innocent- they are knowingly breaking the law. The German exec would have been in trouble in England or New York had he been stopped without a tag and without his drivers license and without his immigration papers- give me a break. To say otherwise as with the St. Louis paper is blatant and ridiculously inflammatory demagoguery. Alabama has long welcomed immigrants- Birmingham was settled by huge numbers of Sicilians, Russians, and others. But a state already economically stretched has to find ways to cut costs in this down economy and the huge costs of illegal immigrants using taxpayer services without paying for them is obviously an area that needs to be minimized. The US Congress needs to address a viable temporary worker visa and a reasonable timeframe for entering the country so that states like Alabama don't have to make these kinds of choices. As a last point, prior to my first visit to Chicago some years ago I was dreading it. My impression was that it was going to be the Chicago described in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. But I was embarrassed that when I discovered a beautiful city...I had made the same ignorant stereotypes and assumptions that many people (most of these commentators on this page) use against the Deep South and Alabama. I encourage you to visit Alabama and see how wrong you are- try Huntsville, AL where there are more PhD's per capita than any other US city which is also the hometown of the inventor of wikipedia, or Birmingham's Civil Rights Museum, or Auburn University from which the current CEO of Apple graduated, or Montgomery where the world's first open heart surgery was performed, or UAB where many of the most significant advances in solving the mystery of AIDS has been conducted. You underestimate us.

    November 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • edgyone

      Yes, your state does have vast ignorance, that I agree with.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CircusTrainer

      and your heritage is Cherokee

      November 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      I applaud your informed rebuttle.

      November 24, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. Johnjon

    hillbilly laws...................... makes us look really good doesn't it?

    November 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get a Clue

      "Hillbilly"? Mmm. That kind of language makes us look really good too.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
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