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. itravelinternationally


    I don't know how something like this would have been handled in Germany. I know that when I travel internationally I keep my passport on me at all times just in case.
    Hey Dan , you must have traveled internationally last in 1940s Germany . Thats what the US will look like if we has a teabagger president . ps what color is your passport ? pink ?

    November 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anya Khan

      I find that people who use the term "tbagger" usually have weak if any logic to add to the discussion.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. MAC

    I lived in Alabama for 12 years and I knew people who lost their lawn care bussiness, construction such as painting, roofing, and carpentry work, or their janitorial business to illegal immigrants because they could not lower their bid because they had to pay insurance, workmans compensation, payroll and income taxes. If you are here legally you are welcome and encouraged to come here, if you are here illegally go back to home and comeback legally. Even the schools had to lie by making up false social security numbers to get payed for feeding illegal immigrant children the free lunches required by the courts and the federal government. And for all of you who are here legally the Fedral Law requires you to carry your proper identification at all times to prove you are here legally.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. archimedes109

    Why aren't these types of employment opportunities offered by many American companies anymore?

    November 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul

    Sweet home, Alabama!! Sounds like a good place to be from.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. harborside sucks

    Alabama is the armpit of the USA if not the world. The poorest state, the most republican state, the sorriest state. Oh, let's keep immigrants out because people that don't even talk English might take my job. If that's the case you may want to consider exactly how vital you are to any economy. Neil Young was right.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    People think they can just pick and choose what laws they obey, then when the ones they chose to disobey are enforced people get up in arms. Illegals should be deported... people employing them should receive fines/jail time and if allowed to keep their business in the future, should be required to provide the same wages/benefits as everyone else. Jobs will eventually fill in. Prices will go up. People need to endure short term chaos for long term order. Go to Mexico illegally, and especially advertise that you are their illegally. Aside from that, illegal immigrants aren't just in Alabama. Specifically illegals from Mexico are all along the South from west coast to east coast. In Los Angeles Mexican gangs, primarily made of illegals, are keeping up gang wars and forcing violence on other races... because they can... because we allow it. There is no nice or quiet way to do this. It cannot continue to be swept into a corner and ignored either; it needs to be thrown out the front door. I do not understand people being so sympathetic to a group of people who knowingly and repeatedly break the law and then flaunt it in front of our faces like nothing can be done about it. People are scared of conflict, but fail to realize the conflict is already here and has been here all along. How about non-farming jobs where employers refuse to hire anyone but illegals because they would have to pay them correctly and pay their taxes like the rest of us? Is that right? It's not right in a sense to profile people with a Spanish lineage; most people would agree with that–but it is also not right to judge a white or black guy dressed like a thug as being a thug–so why do we judge them that way? Because over the course of many years people that are in these categories have proven time and time again that the bias is correct. Very few are the people dressed like thugs that don't act like it. Likewise, very few are the people running around breaking the law and advertising it that are innocent. As far as the ones that were not advertising what they were doing... guilt by association, or in this case, caught by association. It's an ugly mess, but they put themselves there ON PURPOSE. As far as that executive for Mercedes... screw him, ditto, rinse and repeat. That's another problem that people complaining about this "tough law" sit around and complain about all the time–people with some kind of money/status thinking they are above reproach–stop hiding behind your own cowardice and standup for a law that enforces what the people complain about behind closed doors. It's not a long drive from where I live to some farms where illegals work. I've done the work, but I couldn't get hired because the people would have to follow other laws for minimum wage, taxes, and the like. I think you all need to take a look around for laws that are actually tough–this law shouldn't even have to be in place because there are already laws that are supposed to be doing what it is. It's stupid.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The Skeptic

    We should deport Alabama!!!!!

    November 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kay Khan

    I live in another racist southern state GA that just passed a similar law. And I have problems with this law, not because I am an immigrant, but because in fact I am an AMERICAN. And I mean daughters of the American revolution American. My family has been in this country since the very beginning. I also just happen to be Muslim. So racist idiots often assume I am an immigrant. Can you believe I was sitting in the Social Security office applying to a duplicate social security card as mine was torn and unreadable. And the fool lady asked me for my "green card" At the same time my US Passport and drivers licence were on the counter in front of her and my social security record was on her screen saying I was born in NY.

    How exactly am I suppose to prove I am a US citizen. I am told by the social security office that a drivers licence is "not evidence of citizenship" and I guess a passport and their own records are not either. So does that mean all the born Americans now have to carry their birth certificates with them everywhere they go?????? You better make darn sure you don't stay out in the sun too long and get a tan or you are in BIG trouble.

    For those of you who think you are immune just because you are a "born American" you just don't get it. All it takes is a police officer who dislikes you, and now they have an excuse to hold you, because chances are you do not have our birth certificate or passport in your wallet. It is the born Americans that will be the least likely to have anything to show immigration status on them.

    And the fact is in this world of international trade, those of us who know we are going to be harrassed will just move. Right now it is just the illegals moving. But this is just the beginning. People like me are taking a wait and see approach. I am waiting to see what the feds will do and what states will follow and pass these racist laws. I do not want to sell my home and move just to move to another state that will pass the same thing. And I am 100% sure many businesses are doing the same, they are just looking at their options now and planning. If these laws are still here in a year or two do not be surprised when there is a mass movement of skilled people and jobs out of the south.

    And lets face it, they will get what they asked for, and what they deserve. A world with no diversity and of course no jobs.

    The fact is even if you are totally legal or in my case a born US citizen

    November 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hmmm...

      To Jackop: but majority of doctors and pharmacists are immigrants!!!

      November 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lakawak

      The only racist is you. You are apparently saying that other racises are too stupid to have ID like the rest of us.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Lakawak

      Hmmm...maybe..but they are LEGAL immigrants. With IDs.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @jackop If you are a troll, fine. Keep trollin', troll. Otherwise, if you are serious, you just demonstrated why many people around the world–not just Muslims–hate Americans. Well done!

      November 24, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • tom

      I as an American citizen can get arrested for not having an official ID when requested by police....

      November 24, 2011 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Sadie Boyd

      Can't think of anything I like about Alabama...bye, bye tourist industry, bye, bye, industrialization, bye bye infrastructure, bye bye education...oops, they don't have much there in education...

      November 24, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Annie

    I know one thing if we Americans don't stand up and be counted on how we feel about illegal immigration we have lost our nation. Hurrah for Alabama standing up for their state. Since the Federal Laws are not enforced we need state laws to be enacted and enforced. I want people who are here without an invitation to be sent back to their country. We have fought and had family members die for this nation's freedom and we do not want the free loaders here. Send them packing NOW>

    November 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hmmm...

      Then all white caucasions should leave because you came to North America, without an invitation, murdered the natives, and celebrated their death by "thanks for giving" us your country...

      November 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anya Khan

      hmmmm I can see why you don't put your must be embarrsed at such a stupid reply.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Hmmm's reply is an old tired argument. however, it is absolutely true.

      November 24, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Knecht Ruprecht

    “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."

    Maybe they understand it, but they don't understand how to spell it. (Yes I'm assuming since the word is in a quote the cited writer made the mistake.) I think Gemütlichkeit is closest to what the context is here. It means comfort as in the meaning of southern comfort or southern hospitality. It connotes the idea of a warm, welcoming and cordial place.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • frag

      The word is "gemütlichkeit", if you're not sure, look it up. Lazy journalism.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
    • frag

      Dear Ruprecht, I didn't mean you, I meant CNN

      November 24, 2011 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • APS221

      To be fair, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial they quoted misspelled "gemütlichkeit." Since it's a direct quote from the editorial, they should have placed a "[sic]" after it.

      November 24, 2011 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Why Control

    These things will happen as we develop a global economy with a 1960's philosophy. Fact – Illegal immigration is a problem in all developed nations and some developing nations. America is not squeaky clean as our citizens and military travel the world we leave thousands of babies behind, with limited legal avenues for the children and/or the mothers. Detroit engineers have flooded China as the US fell apart, many Asians are rejected tourist visas to come here and shop. Middle class Europeans avoid traveling the US because of the hassle of long airport lines and handing over personal information. America stop worrying so much about losing your edge – you have already lost it

    November 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • DoNotWorry

      A global economy is just one more fallacy of global megacorporations in their One World plan to enslave labor worldwide. It is absolutely foolish to grow food in country A and ship it to country B. Stop wasting petroleum and other resources. Probably 90% of international commerce is bogus and they have said it is inescapable so many times most people actually believe that nonsense. The oil and gas companies and shipping companies sure do love that propaganda.

      November 24, 2011 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scott Fitzpatrick

    The police did the right thing. In every state if you get pulled over and have no ID you will be arrested.
    So this guy did not have his passport, German driving license or anything else on him while he was driving.
    So people here complaining about this, I invite all you complaining people to go out without ID and see what happens when you break a law.

    November 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Absolutely untrue. In a state like mine, that embraces the 21st century, for a mere traffic stop you only need remember your state ID number if being pulled over. You will NOT be arrested for not having a physical ID. In addition, I travel to Europe annually and have never needed to always have my passport on me and have never been arrested for not having it. This is just a case of Repubs doing what they do.....lie.

      November 24, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rick Winquest

    Its easy for Alabama to separate the immigrants from the states population, a simple DNA test would confirm what residents in Alabama have which is the same DNA

    November 23, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BamaJohn_in_Mobile

    Everyone should realize that if your an immigrant you should have your papers on you at all times, that's the way the whole world works. Noone in Alabama is trying to stop anyone from becoming a citizen of this country that would be illegal, we simply want people to be here legally.

    November 24, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      untrue. Reference my comment a few above.

      November 24, 2011 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. tif31


    November 24, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
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