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. Mike

    Alabama just can't stop shooting itself in the foot. It's sad.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Granted, there is a lot of ignorance running rampant in Alabama government (legalize gambling already!), but the immigration law is not a shot in the foot. Well, not for reasonable people who actually understand the law, such as the officers that properly executed the policy.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. phyllis

    This is the republicans, that run the State of Alabama, it will be ruin by these same republicans.....the whole Southern region, is being sent up the river, with out a paddle........because of the far right republicans..........stuck in the old South.......

    The republicans, say they are the party of jobs, well how can that be, when ever they continue, this kind of law........
    No one will come into these places, if this kind of crap, does not stop........

    peace out.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg R

      I guess that means we don't have to worry about you coming to Alabama anytime soon? That's just fine. We like it better that way.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      My third grade English teacher is rolling over in her grave. Please, learn to use punctuation correctly.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob ehmer

    Alabama's Welcome Stations have a slogan that says something to the effect "that they (Alabama) will defend a person's rights". Well, they're showin' it by tellin' illegals they got their rights. THE RIGHT TO BE CALL DEPORTEES!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      What I find kind of 'funny' is that the newspaper told Mercedes it had two choices, one being something like "force your executives to carry identification papers at all times..... " I think the paper meant this a kind of big shock to Mercedes. The big problem is this is not shocking at all. In Germany and much of the world they already ARE required to carry ID papers. In most countries that require this you can be detained for not having them in your possession.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David0

    It seems likely that the German Mercedes managers were more frustrated with their employee driving without a license in a foreign land than with the very reasonable Alabama requirement to have some form of ID while driving.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • atbigfoot91

      Maybe you need to educate yourself on the fascist nature of Alabama's new immigration law.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      Maybe you could explain it to me. But I've lived in Asia and had lengthy stays in other continents and several countries. And all of them required drivers to have proper licenses. Every one of them required stringently that foreigners carried passports. And they all required valid work visas or you did not work.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Markb

    The guy was driving a car with no tag, he had NO DRIVERS LICENSE with him. I guess the other states allow everyone at will to drive without a tag or license.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • lunchbreaker

      NO, other states would have just given a ticket., as would this officer done before Oct. 1. How's that for a fact?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg Smith

      They wouldn't be thrown in jail, only cited. Big difference.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • tluv00

      It says "a problem with his tag" not no tag (it was probably expired which is the fault of the rental car company) and "didn’t have handy what the state considers proper identification" so who knows what that means. Maybe he had a German License, maybe he had a passport. Who knows.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      They're not interested in facts. Missouri, apparently, wants all of the illegal immigrants they can get! I guess their hospitals, schools, and social services have so much money they can't spend it, so they're hoping illegals will come and suck them dry. I hope they're right!

      November 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • douglas

      yeah, citation only. Other states do not arrest. Although...I'm not sure how the cop was supposed to know if he was an auto exec, a terrorist, or someone in between. And is the only reason this is getting attention because he's white?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mysteryroche

      I am not so sure other states would have just let him go. He didn't have any identification and was driving a car without a tag. What name would they write on the citation before just turning him loose? Mickey Mouse? I think any state would have held him until they figured out for sure who he really was.

      On the bright side, at least it illustrates that the state isn't just prejudice against hispanics. This guy was most likely white but had an obvious foreign accent and no identification papers. Of course, that probably means you funny talking yankees should make sure to have your papers on you at all times while visiting the great state of Alabama 😉

      November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. HurrDurr

    Yeah!! – You can all make Banjo's and Bedsheets . .

    November 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • FFFF

      Banjos are African....

      November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • iconoclast

      Then we should deport them

      November 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mastodonrocks

      Pretty much everything evolved from africa.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smooth Deuce

      Except anal beads, brah. Everything except anal beads.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smooth Deuce

      Except Cheetos, brah. Everything except Cheetos.

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

      FFFF is an uneducated and unintelligent member of the ignorant KKK and a proud come guzzling tea bagger

      November 23, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taagen Davis

      Yo! Banjos are the "only original American instrument." Look it up. I totally agree with Missouri although I don't live there. And hey, all you haters, got a question for you. Right now, right this very instant, PROVE you're an American with a right to live here. Prove it! think because you speak with an "American" accident is proof enough? Try again, bucko. American drivers license is NOT proof either. So...Alabama legislators, Arizona legislators PROVE you're an American!

      November 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stopthemadness

      And just how do you propose that we prove we are Americans. My family however has ties in the state I live in for the last 200 years. That being said because of your comment I can get on with the facts. The facts are people yelled about racial profiling and here it was proven Alabama isn't just racially profiling they are making it almost impossible to live there and own anything seeing how it is all farm and manufacturing.

      November 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven

      Yeah, if you like stained 50-thread count rags.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. atbigfoot91

    Another group of Germans came to Alabama in the 50's and built the Saturn V rocket. Does anyone know where THAT went?

    November 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bobbert

    Um,Markb and David0, making up facts is not the same as having all the fact...
    can you relay that message to fox news too once you're done mulling it over?

    November 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      How intriguing, Bobbert. Do share what part of any post of mine you in your omniscient wisdom have deemed "made up"? I don't watch Fox, so I'm not sure I follow that part of your post. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dan Halen

    I drive one. It's much better than the American POSs out there.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      German engineering used to be the gold standard in autos. They certainly have the historic edge on design, but they still spend more time in the shop than other types of cars. What is an American car anyway? We recently narrowed our choices to a Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry (both hybrids). We chose the Ford because it had the features we wanted, felt better on the road, and got better mileage. That does not mean we chose an American car. The Fusion is largely made in Mexico using a large percentage of off-shore parts. The Camry is assembled in Tennessee. The only part not made in the US is the transmission.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • livingthedream

      Camry is made in Kentucky.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      I'd stick with the Camry...

      November 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • kanank

      lot of nonsense. why don't you stick to issue instead of blabbering about something else?

      November 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Globalization,

      it happened, its a done deal.

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

      I bought a Sonata BECAUSE I wanted a car built in America. Birmingham Alabama!, the only imported parts are transmission.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      And the 1% has spoken!!!!!!

      November 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Skeptic


      November 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Name*Mitch

    When Nick Satan ops Nick Saban came to Alabama everything change,,,,

    November 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • lunchbreaker

      Your blaming a football coach. Really?

      November 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JPark

    Thought he was a Nazi spy !

    November 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Roll Tide

    @GregR, I will help pitch in on that bus ticket, just say the word.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • atbigfoot91

      Round the bowl, down the hole.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. reality

    When I travel to foreign countries I am instructed to always carry my passport and I do. Is it that tough to ask for the same courtesy?

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

    ... Wow. It's amazing that you probably don't know how ironic your statement is. I blame the education system and your parents. Please ... Stay in Alabama.

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

      The problem here sir is YOU need to stay out of Alabama.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roger Noe

    At least they don't target Hispanics only. Europeans can be illegal immigrants also. In fact, Europeans stole this land from the original inhabitants so all whites in the US are descended from illegal immigrants.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mysteryroche

      Correct. So the lesson is that we should let someone else steal it since we (the "legal" citizens) originally stole it? Sorry, possession is 9/10s of the law. No "whiite" guilt here. However, if you can't stand living with yourself go back to where your ancestors came from, if they will have you.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Noe

      To mysteryroche. I'll be over to take control of your house, car, bank account and any other valuables you have based upon your "9/10 possession" assertion. Thanks and I hope you are part of the 1%.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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