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. Roger Ogilivy Thornhill

    Hello, Dispatch. This is Dwight. We got us a Kraut who said he dudent wanna join our KKK party tonight. Book him? Immigrant law? 10-4 dispatch.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. salvador

    I'am from mexico and live at Ga I so thenkfull for all this states Inmigration Laws, if you go to Guanajuato Mexico you will see a new Ditroit we take all the auto companies and USA will be came a consummer not a producer so, thank you see you when you croos the border to Mexico to get a Job.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Ogilivy Thornhill

      I can't think of a better place for Detroit than Guanajuato.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Punkass

      I definitely agree with you on that, Detroit and Mexico definitely look alike and have ALOT in common

      November 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kris

    Illegal immigrants taking jobs?/ How do they get a job legally in the first place, oh, you mean they work under the table and don't pay taxes...You support this? How about the largest gangs in America right now, MS-13. They are made up all illegal aliens, committing serous crimes. They get caught, they get deported, they return as soon as possible. So they put a heavy burden on all taxpayers for police enforcement, medical costs and they don't pay taxes. So I glad your happy paying for these illegal aliens, but i do applaud Alabama for trying to do something. So would you rather keep german executive happy or force Illegal Aliens to leave your state? that's a easy one for me!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulwisc

      Most illegal immigrants must supply a SS number for their jobs, so they are indeed paying taxes. You aren't competent to argue on the gang issue. it is a tiny proportion of these illegal immigrants who are involved in crimes. You want to lump them all into one and blame them all for anything you don't like. That's because you're a bigot, and it's not their illegality that bothers you (otherwise you'd have been ranting about all the illegal white Europeans) but their ethnicity. You're afraid.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • spikemanlou

      Hey Kris, when you get off your lazy welfare @$$ and start picking the fruits and vegetables that these "Illegals" are here doing then you have room to complain, until then stay in your redneck nopublican state and keep quiet.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      "it is a tiny proportion of these illegal immigrants who are involved in crimes."

      I got news for you, if the immigrant is deemed "illegal" they are a criminal.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      spike...what a tough guy....talking crap on a CNN blog. Congrats, you are the dumbest person alive.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      "when you get off your lazy welfare @$$ and start picking the fruits and vegetables that these "Illegals" are here doing then you have room to complain"

      When those farms pay LEGAL pickers fair wages, maybe you will have more AMERICANS working those jobs.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I agree with Tony

      November 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Hey paulWisc Go Fu@K yourself, you know what bothers me, idiots like you!

      November 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      Hey Mizzou, how bout we settle this on the football field. If you win 3 games in the SEC before Bama and Auburn combine for 20 wins against SEC opponents you can have Mercedes.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • momof2

      illegal immigrants who are in gangs don't work at honest jobs. The only jobs they take are from rival gangs.

      I can hear it now. "back in the good old days I could buy my drugs from a US citizen in the Vice Lords. Now that corner was taken over by the illegals in MS. 13. Why should I have to learn what "dime bag" is in Spanish?"

      November 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Al

    Hey Roy, Did you learn to spell in Alabama, apparently yes.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carrie T.

      And did you learn grammar in Mississippi? Apparently yes.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. E.R. White

    Unfortunately, Alabama doesn't get it.

    The politicians, who had this law passed.... are the ONLY ones who will benefit from it.

    They get their campaign contributions.....regardless of whether or not Alabama farmers can get their crops harvested.... or Alabama auto workers.... have a job this time next year....

    November 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Try visiting Germany and not having your passport on you that proves your citizenship. You will be detained longer than a few hours. In fact, check into a German hotel or Gast Haus, you leave your passport with the front desk and they check with the police to see if you are wanted. So spew, what you want the about Alabama. But the German exec was being treated just like he was at home. You folks that have no clue what other countries do with illegal aliens need to stop posting!!! The St Louis paper just made thensevles look like liberal idiots as most Germans do not want to go where laws are not enforced.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    Great. Now we can boast that our laws are better than those of mexico & China. We have indeed come a long way.

    Welcome folks to US of A, land of liberty & freedom. A beacon of Hope to the repressed people of the world. Gleefully preparing to wage a third war on yet another populace.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Portland tony

    When was the last time You rented a car without a valid driver's license and credit card...? Of course these could never be used for an ID in Alabama.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bayou Tiger

    I have been detained in N.O. for failing to have my drivers license on me when I was stopped for a moving violation. I asked the officer if I could have someone bring my license from home which was only 5 minutes away and he said no, we have to go to the station. There they checked my dirvers record to see if I had a valid license which I did, so they allowed me to make a call to have someone bring me my license and then I was allowed to go. That is the law in N.O. and has been for a very long time. How is that different from what happened in Bama?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flixoman

      That is different because...well...no...because its just not fair!

      Seriously though. The one time I was stopped while driving in Europe, I had to fish out my US passport, GA drivers licvence, and show my EU work permit/visa. People are just upset that immigration laws might have to be followed in this country. Imagine that.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      The liberals are just blowing up because they can't paint this law as unfair to Mexicans. See, in Bama we hate everyone that wasn't born in the South equally.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nick

    Oh the poor farming industry! I worked at a tomoato farm with both my parents...there are people to work the farms, they just need to be paid properly. Farms just don't want to pay what is deserved for the work being performed.

    If anything, build housing for the homeless and supply them with food and clothing in exchange for working on the farms.
    That would solve several issues facing us today.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • WHOOSH

      Give it up Nick, The law is not right in it's application. You are throwing yourself under the bus trying to justify. Just stop it.
      You can stop the rain of displeasure with your poor red state.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hehehehe

    How awesome would it be if Mercedes did actually pull 10,000 jobs out of Alabama in response... I think the logistics would be difficult, but what a strong message that would send! If you work for Mercedes in the south, best re-think which side of this law you're on... it might cost you your job. Don't worry, I think there are lots of jobs picking cotton...

    November 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      No good deed goes unpunished. If they did, it wouldn't be the first time someone was punished for doing the right thing.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rich

    Benz should pull out of such a racist state ...

    November 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Why is everyone pulling the racist card for something that did not involve anyone's race?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flixoman

      @Nick – Simple. Its the only card they have.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dibert

    The "law" is in place, the authorities were doing their job. This action on their part showed consistency and not profiling.
    As to illegal immigration it pales in comparison to the civil rights era. I resent it when people compare their plights to what african-americans experienced for generations. Illegals have made their impact on the population, economy, social trends, education, etc., in this country and now states are burdened with making "adjustments" based on these issues....states are going to be bankrupted due to illegal immigrants.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joan Buchanan

    May be this story should focus on the "nonimmigrants" who have managed to land jobs after the illegals left.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. smitty

    Gee, let see: Last year when I was in Germany I was required to show my passport amd papers three times and I didn't even drive a car. This guy understands and he knows it's the norm.

    Grow up people.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      You were stopped on the street and asked to show your ID in Germany?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flixoman

      @Cedar – Was the Mercedes Exec walking down the street? No. He was driving a car that had no licence plates and then could not even show that he had a drivers licence.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kris

    Hopefully all the illegal immigrants go to St.Louis since they're so friendly.

    Someone should do a study on how much of everyone's paycheck goes to support illegal aliens?

    November 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      We would never get accurate results. There have already been way too many proven instances of the government fudging numbers to make things look like they're not as bad as they really are when it comes to illegal immigration.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      "There have already been way too many proven instances of the government fudging numbers to make things look like they're not as bad as they really are when it comes to illegal immigration."

      Citations please.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
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