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. nothing better to do

    By the way, you don't have to carry your passport with you once you are in the US of A, or for that matter most developed nations. You need it to get in only. (Some travel experts advise you to carry it, others think it wiser to keep locked up where you are staying).

    November 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ala-kat

      but you still need a DL when driving...

      November 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Grr

    Why would a German care? They invented the phrase, "show me your papers."

    November 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tonyS

    He should have had his identification papers with him. Get over it. This is what happens in a law-and-order State/Country.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • wjmknight

      If mercedes wants bring their 10,000 jobs to my city, a more enlightened and appreciative part of the country, I wouldn't mind if he walked around starkers. Alabamans can get used to shoveling dirt if they don't wnat the jobs.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sid

    It is a requirement of immigration law that all aliens carry their proof of valid stay in the country at all times. It is not an Alabama law or an Arizona law, but the federal immigration law. It is applicable to all, from the guest worker working in the fields to the multinational executive and makes no distinction. Is the St. Louis paper angry just for the executive? How about showing support for the poor chap who is working hard on the fields for little pay. Besides, the executive being educated, should know better about the laws.

    Now granted, that the German citizen does not need a visa, but he still needs to have his passport nevertheless.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • wjmknight

      The poor chap working hard in the fields is probably an illegal immigrant too.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anti-Alien

    Darn it !!! Send those darn aliens back to Mars where they came from !! But try and get one of their ray guns before they go. It'll be just like the terminator !! Yeah we'll get their technology and It'll change the world !!!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fed Up

    I guess it was too much of a hassle to carry his drivers license and passport while driving. Sounds like law enforcement were doing their jobs correctly. It does not matter what level he works at Mercedes, you are required to have a drivers license with you at all time while operating a vehicle.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Scott Anderson

    Too bad they paper didn't rush to the defense of say, poor people arrested under the same stupid law.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up

      they paper? it should state "the paper" you poor idiot!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Peg

    The bigger issue to me is how is a rental company able to rent cars out that have no plates. That would imply they are not registered. Does this mean that Alabama is letting companies skirt the laws that everyone else has to follow?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jordan

      hah nice one sir!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rob

    So bamaesque

    November 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. wompas

    Good all businesses should leave that backwards backwoods state anyway.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ScottG

    Let the Chinese pull out. Lets see, if I were wondering around any part of China without proper papers, I'd be thrown in a labor camp as a spy, sentenced to 12 years hard labor. What is wrong with you people. China playing that game is like the pot calling the kettle black. In Germany you'd face difficulties if you were running around without your passport or some acceptable form of ID as well. Let's not play like this is an Immigration issue................

    November 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • wjmknight

      He was arrested under state's new immigration laws, that makes it an immigration matter.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • concerned_patriot

      Scott, you are so is not an immigration is a civil liberties issue. Our handlers are using the immigrants as scapegoats to draw attention away from the true causes of the economic downturn as well as to keep a closer tab on the US Citizenry. Right now we the sheeple are demonizing the Hispanics and other immigrants just like they demonized the Jews in Germany when Hitler came to power. I am not in favor of illegal immigration; however I am also not in favor showing my papers every time I turn around. I am married to a LEGAL immigrant and we are harassed every time we turn around to " show our papers". No we are not on public assistance, my kids are not on Medicaid, and yes my spouse speaks English. This "comrade show me your papers" policy is dangerous. I was born in Bama and have traveled all over. All of us here are NOT uneducated and are actually embarrassed by some of the racist rednecks who live here. Furthermore I hear people tell me that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to fear. That too was the prevailing sentiment in Germany among the German citizens of the day. Many of those citizens ended up in concentration camps for political crimes. In the words of Henry David Thoreau "That government is best which governs least". The government is the vehicle the people have chosen to execute their will, however, our government has become inexpedient, perverted and corrupt. "We the people" have become "we the sheeple" and allowed this to happen. Big government is not for the people, but for themselves and their corporate supporters. The best way to keep a people enslaved is make them unaware of their slavery. Keep them in debt, addicted and ignorant. I do not need to go into detail about the state of our schools, the fiasco that is our national debt, or the alcoholism and drug addiction that are rampant in our country today. Most Americans are happy to drive around in there high debt vehicles, drink their lattes, watch their TVs and give up half their salary to the IRS. The average middle class worker pays 33% income taxes, 6.2 % FICA taxes, and in most states sales tax, gas tax, property tax...etc. If you add it all up we are paying around 50-55% of our earnings in taxes. That was never the way this country was supposed to be. Keep demonizing the immigrants and let the government and wall street tend to themselves they have done an excellent job so far.

      November 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. m

    How about producing American cars in America and send the Krauts back to Germany.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • wjmknight

      !: Germans make better cars than Americans.

      2: Americans are the ones buying teh cars.

      3: Only a tea ba g g er wants to get rid of good paying jobs in this economy just because the company isn't American (did Mercedes need a bail out, I forget (he said scarcastically).

      November 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Ehhh, not really, my brother bought a German car, guess what, it was no better than American. Some are better, some are worse, but they are all made in America, the parts are made in the country of origin, or shipped from country of origin.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wjmknight

    Classic. Hey Alabama, how's the weather in the 19th century? I hear Wal-Mart is having sale on thumb-screws and ignorance...GET 'ER DONE!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nash

    Alabama farmers should hire locals to do hard labor for less than minimum wage. isn't this what tey wanted? (Jobs for Americans). If I were the German executive I would move the Mercedez Benz plant elsewhere since Alabama has recently increased their job opening due to the max exodus of Hispanics. Doing so will only benefit states that really need jobs in the midwest like Illinois and Missouri. The weather here is similar to Germany by the way (wink).

    November 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike B

      The reason farmers don't hire Americans is because they do not want to work. There is a difference in wanting a job and wanting to work. If the law does no change it will be good by hicks from Alabama. Alabama will be the new Somilia.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shut_up

    illegals come over from messico, but if you want to travel to messyco then we have to have a passport or get thrown in jail?? try this in GERMany and see how far you get without a passport. who would want to go to missouri? never liked mercedes, i will stick to my Bentley.......................

    November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
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