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. ReelAmerican

    Damn right we don't want no foreign Liberal communists in Alabama. He should ben in Jail by now and would a been if we didn't have a muslin in the White House which were about to fix with a God-fearing Republican patriot.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      That's funny ! Good one !

      November 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      Ha, nice try, but you are putting on the errors a bit too inconsistently in your effort to portray an Alabama native.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Old School!

    Let an American go to Germany and Drive without their "PAPERS" and see what happens! Germany is the country that is know for the NAZI term......"Show Me Your Papers"

    November 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Allen

      It's happened to me in Wuppertal last year and they didn't send me to Auschwitz. The guy just sighed and told me not to do it again, because if I did he'd have had to write me a ticket (not arrest me) Germans have learned how to reasonable. Seems that Alabama is headed in the opposite direction

      November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobg2

      Germany has long since gotten over its Nazi past, but it seems that the people of Alabama are real eager now to trade in their white sheets for swastikas.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hugh Allen

    The point isn't that he wasn't carrying papers, for which he was certainly at fault, but that he got arrested for it. In Germany if you leave your licence at home while driving you get a ticket: you don't get to do the perp walk.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David0

    If this person who chose to drive in a foreign country had turned out to have some illegal activity of a violent nature in mind, no doubt Alabama and the Alabama police would now be castigated for failing to act when a foreigner with no valid drivers license or ID was stopped in their state.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Richard

    ".....they were concerned the legislation could paint the state as bigoted and intolerant." The state is bigoted and always has been.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. EddyB

    I spent a year in Alabama one day.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      Interesting. Did you manage to visit the Rocket City Museum, the Bellingrath Gardens, or the beautiful beaches? Oh, you were just interviewing for a job cleaning at the UAB medical research center? Too bad.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. William2342345

    Welcome to the Banjo Zone...

    November 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. An Alabamian

    The executive in question was driving in an odd manner and had no driver's license or any other identification on him. That's a red flag or three even if you are a citizen.

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

      That's not true at all –

      The executive in question was driving a rented Kia without tags. He had Identification on him that is acceptable in Europe – just not to Alabama. you need to check your facts before you say that he "was driving in an odd manner and had no driver's license or any other identification on him"

      November 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • DMM

      But he wasn't arrested for that. He was arrested because he didn't have all his papers with him. "Show me your papers!"

      November 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      No, Jim, he left his ID in his hotel. He was released after a friend brought it to him.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Do we need any more reasons why NOT to go to Alabama? I don't think so... I am sorry because I am sure there are also nice / fair people there, sitll, to encourage such laws.... amazing...

      November 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • David0

      Such laws are every other country has? Try living in the U.K. for awhile. You will have to stand in line every few months to verify your whereabouts and show you have not outstayed your visa, or they will come after you.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wade

      Exactly... Had he had his passport and ID on him when he was pulled over, nothing would have happened. If I'm pulled over without my DL, I'm certain to be arrested if they cannot be certain of who I am and that I have a DL. Further, in Germany, and American citizen is required to have his passport with him at all times. This man experienced what his own country does... I don't see the problem. And why should he be treated different because he is an executive? One more case of expectations that the rich are treated differently!

      November 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jon Dough

    Ever traveled in Germany w/o proper I.D. etc? Just follow the rules and stop twisting events to suit your views.

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

      Sounds like the south is trying to do it again. RN

      November 23, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. reality 66

    I spent 15 years in a plant with a nice paycheck at the end of every week and holidays off. Then one day someone got the bright idea of shipping our plant to mexico for the cheap wages there. It was tough taking work tables away from people who had worked at those stations for 20 years or more and loading them on trailers bound for mexico. That was bad enough and now they are here. And by the way they arent all picking fruit for a living. If you are in disagreement with alabamas laws then stay out of alabama and stop crying about it. At least there is still some goverment on the side of legal citizens in this country.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosaint

      Stop crying and bark that sap with your union leaders. The unions in this country have let corporate America enslave their workers by not negotiating and instead making impossible demands and threats. This is no way to negotiate. Blame your union and yourself for paying the union dues that resulted in your own demise.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ildrig

      That was your employer's fault, not the Mexicans. It seems you are putting your resentment on the wrong people. Mexico didn't coherce that company to move from Alabama, they did so on their own will. That is how the capitalist system works: get profit no matter what. If the plant had been profitable in Alabama, they would have left it there. But maybe they couldn't find qualified workers, or just someone willing to work for real.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Santosaint

    I hope they do move the plant...money talks, I bet the Governor was on the phone the very next day with the President of Mercedes kissing his ___! They all kiss ___ for money! The rich play by different rules. I bet the police officer got some kind of ___ chewing as well! Go Alabamy, you should have learned of the negative economic impact after Azona did the same stupid thing. Yea, I said it...S – T – U – P – I – D.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. palintwit

    Teabaggers believe that the movie "Deliverance" is an accurate portrayal of conservative, christian life.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • ToothBuck

      Where do you think they got the idea for all the backwoods goings-on in Deliverance? Hollywood isn't THAT creative. It was based off a lot of the stuff the hillbillys in Bambabana do and how they live. Ever driven through Bambabana? If so, you'd know its almost as backwoods hillbilly as Texas. Almost.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      And a lot also seem to believe it was about Alabama...it is about and was filmed in Georgia...let me help everyone out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliverance

      November 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JustWho

    You are a real hater of anyone except yourself. Get a life outside this country.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dexter

    alabama and the their congress people belong in a sack os shhit- thats what we all do in these parts of countre- same as in mississipi-–

    November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Old School!

    Let an American go to Germany and Drive without their "PAPERS" and see what happens! Germany is the country that is known for the NAZI term......"Show Me Your Papers"

    November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • WOOSH

      If you leave your house without your "papers" wallet, etc; the same could happen to you. Alabama pass laws always to disenfranchised some group or another. Why are they so freakin hateful and vengeful???? My GOD!

      November 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burt Reynolds

      uhhh... Have you been to germany lately? The Nazis are no longer in power. Have been for quite a while now.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
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