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. atbigfoot91

    I was born and raised in Alabama and feel fully qualified to comment on the stupidity and racist nature of its citizens. That being said, there are a whole lot of good folks in the state.

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

      Same could be said of any state from Maine to California (even Alaska and Hawaii).

      November 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. palintwit

    Today a Mercedes factory. Tomorrow an extermination camp.

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

    I think the message her is crystal clear. To all of you illegals that have gotten scared and left Alabama: Missouri's hospitals and schools welcome you to use their resources illegally! How nice of them!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David

    The Deep south is still filled with xenophobic white rednecks, and now they are more Republican than Democrat . Alabama must be trying to beat Mississippi and Louisiana to the bottom. Good for Missouri. I hope Mercedes Benz shuts down and moves to a civilized state.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      So...harboring criminals is being civilized?

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

      Yet the "superior" beings in Missouri are reduced to begging for our factories.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eric of Reseda

    LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! The GOP and Tea Baggers operate PURELY on a simplistic and emotionally-driven world view. You morons are putting Americans out of work!

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

      That may true but maybe not. I hope they keep this "experiment" up for at least a decade to see how things go. It's been the other way (almost wide open illegal immigration) for so long, it will be interesting to really see what the result of this legislation will be for the state of Alabama. Or we could just start throwing a bunch of names around and irrationally jump to conclusions...

      November 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • BamaChick

      @mysteryroche The result after a full month under the new immigration law was that unemployment rates dropped in every single Alabama county. One could almost conclude that employers had to hire legal workers.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    first you let the tomato rotten in the fields, now you arrest the job creators .. wow GOP, good job!!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. vtguy

    Ummm sorry liber lefty newspaper... when I worked in germany and drove or traveled out of my town, I needed to carry my passport at all times. No identification... too bad, Alabama did the right thing.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • It is sad

      Really? You must have been in the "alabama" part of Germany. I did not have that experience at all except for when I entered the country and when I left. My US picture ID on my drivers license was sufficent.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • SlayFalseGod

      Thats great reasoning ... for a 5 year old.
      This is America – not Germany.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobg2

      The problem is, that the U.S. is no position right now to be snooty. We are begging for jobs,whether they come from Germany or not. The folks in Alabama seem determined to kill the goose that is lying the golden eggs for them, and Mercedes might very well decide to move somewhere else. The folks in Alabama stuck to their principles in fighting against the Union armies in the Civil War, and that didn't work out so well, and now it seems that they want to repeat history. Oh well, I guess they can always hunt themselves some squirrels.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. demogal

    Go ahead, Alabama, reap what you have sown. Bet if a football player at Bama or Auburn were an illegal immigrant you would grant him a waver.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matty2Shoes

      Well, that goes without saying. What's your point? You a yankee boy or just a sissified sport hatin liberal? Roll Tide!

      November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John MacDaniel, Huntsville AL

    The 'publicans' are happy! No one else matters!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JohnM

    Let's keep in mind that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, once a proud newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer an his family, is now owned by an advertising rag, Lee Enterprises. Lee has laid off hundreds of workers, stripped retirees of their benefits and outsourced most operations to foreign countries. They have little credibility in St. Louis and the Post-Dispatch is more of an embarrassment than a newspaper.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobg2

      Don't know what that row is all about, but if you're saying that the people of Missouri would not welcome several thousand new jobs because of some issue about a newspaper, you are dead wrong.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lunchbreaker

    And the SEC already wasn't happy about "Mizzou" joining the conference.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. atbigfoot91

    I hope Mercedes pulls out of Alabama. It will serve the citizens right for going along with knee jerk fascist redneck legislators.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      You are aware of the actual law right? Either you're not or you are just trolling.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. schnikers

    I might fly over Alabama.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    I am trying to understand all the uproar – as an American citizen, if I were driving a rental car with no drivers license or any form of Id and the police stopped me (in most states) for a traffic violation – I would in all likelyhood be taken to a police station until they could identify who I was, was it my rental car, etc., etc. -especially if a DUI or speeding ticket. As one who has traveled internationally, I always carried my passport everywhere in case something like this happens...I am not for or against Alabama laws, just using common sense.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. atbigfoot91

    You should crawl back under the rock you mistakingly evolved from.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
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