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. John

    Wonder how tuff Mexicos immigration laws are?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Too Funny

    Anybody who travels internationally is used to carrying their passports (except the illegal mexicans.)

    November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Truman Angel

    "others told CNN they were concerned the legislation could paint the state as bigoted and intolerant." Alabama? Bigoted? Who could say such a thing?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • rockysfan

      LMAO, ROFL!!!!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Now let's back up here. IF one of us were in Germany and were pulled over for any reason and could not produce our papers don't you think we would be arrested? Probably arrested as a spy and tossed in the jail with the key thrown away. And this would happen in any foreign country. So what is so wrong with asking someone to produce a valid drivers' license or a passport? And if they can't, they would be arrested. Even a family tree full of American born ancestors person would be arrested if they were driving without a drivers' license. Laws are made for a reason. And I'm sure some of you complaining about this would file a law suit against this executive if he had hit your car and done damage to your car or you body! How dare he drive without a license.....All ended well when the proper paperwork was presented to the law enforcement....

      November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred the deporter

      Bigoted against illegals.....sounds good to me...

      November 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Linda, if you think that's most other nations – especially Germany – treat outsiders, you're dreaming. Locked away and the key thrown away?

      Sad that he has to be arrested and we say it's proof things are working well... that's something we all should have to go through, right, like a rite of passage? "No big deal, he got out..."

      November 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      I dont think this is a racist law. I think its just a poorly written law. I think there's a better way to do this. It doesn't seem to serve the finacial intrests of these states. You may say illegal but this guy wasn't even illegal. He just didnt have his paperwork. If this was a Federal agent who had access to this person's passport and photograph there would be no problem. I think this law should have only been passed with the consent and assistance of the Federal government. Because now this law can be hurting the very people it was designed to protect. The people of Alabama.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nick

    I'm in Alabama, and I am all for a tough immigration law. No I'm not racist. I do however have an intollerance for criminals.
    The law was applied exactly as it is supposed to be.

    Suspect is pulled over because of a traffic violation. They are asked for their identification. Valid identification was not readily available. Suspect is detained until propperly identified. Proper identification is submitted and the suspect is released.

    It was a properly executed policy.

    Why is it so many people don't comprehend the word "Illigal"? If you go to another country, you have to have the propper paperwork or you'll be arrested or worse. I have to get a passport if I wish to go anywhere outside the country. Why should the USA be any different in that regard? If you're not a citizen, get your proper paperwork and come on in.

    If you can't work with the system, stay home.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • rockysfan

      Please! Try using that excuse for the law next time your pulled over for running to the store for a last minute item for your party and you left the license at home. again LMAO, Hey Mercedes Benz, WISCONSIN wants your business and we have NO immigration laws AND we have a plant in Janesville just waiting for you!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Papers please! Bubba's are exempt

      November 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      No, you don't need papers once you are in most other countries. You don't even need a US passport to enter other countries. You only need a passport to get back into the US, not to get out.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      What, pray-tell, does "Illigal" mean?

      November 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      Nick you hit it dead on, too bad some idiots cannot understand the basic concept of the laws in the country.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      You need a passport to get into a country. You don't need to carry your passport with you everywhere you go once in the country. That's what's silly. When I travel, I leave my passport in a safe place – like the safe in hotel room or hostel, sometimes even with the staff if it's their policy (not uncommon). So I'm subject to arrest for a minor violation for not carrying those papers? Pathetic.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe68

      This guy is not a criminal. He was not stopped for a traffic violation. He was stopped because of a problem with the car's tag they rented him in Alabama (go figure). He had identification, just not "what the state considers proper identification". Seriously, they should move those 10,000 jobs out of a state with such nonsense, illogical, tax-wasting rules.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I'm in Alabama too, and you and the rest of these f7cktards are embarrassing our state. This is already proving to be economically devastating in the farming industry, as well as any other arenas, you nitwit.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JohnRJ08

    Boy, Alabama has moved so far to the right that it now finds itself in pre-World War II Germany.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. roy

    I agree with alabama law!roll tide! Where do u think our jobs are going 2!mexicans because some americans are to lazy to work!if the americans got off there butt in work we wud not have to worry bot ilgeals !crime,drugs,smuggling brought her by ilgeals !really!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • theantagonist

      Wow – dear Roy, an education would really help you articulate your point of view.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      We can sure tell where you were "edjukated"!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ernest

      Psst... this isn't texting here. You do get more than 240 characters and can spell things out in full!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Or maybe those jobs are going to people that can spell. That leaves you out

      November 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. clearfog

    His armband with a yellow star of David wasn't enough?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Usher73

    What's the problem? I had to hand over my passport several times when I went to Italy.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • clearfog

      Amanda Knox, that you?

      November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      What were you doing that drew so much attention? I have traveled extensively for my job for the past 15 years, having been to several dozen foreign countries, spending at least a month in that country each time I travel. After I was through the immigration checkpoints, I have NEVER ONCE been stopped by a local police officer and asked for proof that I was in that country legally. The most I have ever had to show was my International Driving Permit and my US based Driver's License – and that's only on the times I've been stopped for traffic violations. I have never been asked for 1 single thing more than that in any country I have ever been in, and no local police officer has ever questioned my legality to be in the country I was in.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kenji Nihipali

    LMAO. Who cares what they do down there. Don't like it, just don't go there. Police are just following the law. Still, any one not able to produce a drivers license would get arrested including americans. You guys re morons tha keep slamming this. Protocol was followed and any person foreign or not with out a dl gets arrested.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclobrown

      so he got a rental car without a license on him. dont think so

      November 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Milo

    "didn’t have handy what the state considers proper identification"

    He didn't have a tag on his rental car, he didn't have a drivers license, and he didn't have his passport. Is there any state in the United States or Germany where that would be legal?

    Or maybe foreigners who invest hundreds of millions of dolars aren't expected to obey local laws? He sounds like a 1 percenter to me, where's Occupy Mercedes when you need them?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      The arricle said there was a problem with the tag, not that he didn't have one

      November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kenny

    WOW..........Alabama has gone so far to the right it can see the back side of the left now. Go "Bama" Showing your true colors, OR YOUR LACK OF A DESIRE FOR COLORS.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ralph Herrin

    Let's see, (1) improper license plate, (2) no driver's license, (3) no passport and (4) no identification. Wow! Those law enforcement officers surely should be fired or shot! I visit Canada often. Canada is not exactly unkind to Americans, but my passport and driver's license are always in my pocket when I am there. Guess what? I have never encountered a problem.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. HillClimber

    Yes – Tell the German Mercedes executive to carry his papers – that is the requirement while visiting my country. Want a welcoming state? Go to the state that welcomes American Citizens and the exclusion of those not here legally!. No question about it: get the illegal aliens out of my country, off my land, off my roads, out of my schools, and out of my pocket and do it now! Not tomorrow, not later, not next year – the violation of my law is now and I demand the immediate mass deportation of illegal aliens. There is no justification for illegal entry to this country – we reserve the right to tell you "no" and I demand the adherence to my laws. My country, my laws, Get Out!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclobrown

      NO. r u real mad now goober

      November 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. humtake

    Are you kidding me? This guy didn't have proper identification, he gets arrested, and people are whining about this? If you are not a citizen and you don't have papers on you, that's your fault. Every time I travel there isn't one person who doesn't say, "keep your passport on you at all times".

    Not to mention, why does his status as an executive preclude him to being treated any better or worse than anyone else?

    I'm in awe about how people actually consider these laws as an infringement on rights. Even so far as to question if those people are welcome in the state. OF COURSE they are welcome. They are welcome anywhere in America, as long as they are here legally and can prove it when the time comes. If you oppose this, it means you have no regard to the law and in your mind there should be no laws and only anarchy.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Milo

      Laws are for little people, the 1 percenters don't have to obey the laws.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Truman Angel

    Why is it that the people who burn crosses are so much like the people who once hung people on them?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
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