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Alabama’s Auto Industry Under Pressure to Overturn HB 56; Hyundai Takes “No Position” on Law

by Mahwish Khan on 02/29/2012 at 7:21pm

Alabama made recruiting auto manufacturers a top economic priority for the state. And it worked — Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai all have manufacturing plants in the state. After the state passed its worst-in-the-nation anti-immigrant law, HB 56, employees of Mercedes-Benz and Honda were arrested under that statute.

The Tuscaloosa News editorialized “As Alabama tries with one hand to roll out the welcome mat for global corporations and international tourists, it is using the other to smack them with a harsh, confusing immigration law.”  The very same immigration law which is also wreaking economic havoc on the state, with estimates that it will cost up to $11 billion.  As we reported earlier this month, Immigration advocates and allies asked Auto Manufacturers to stand against HB 56. Now, CNN reports that they’ve written directly to the car companies:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote letters to all three of the state’s foreign-owned automakers highlighting that the bill has created “widespread racial profiling and other discrimination … particularly against anyone suspected of being foreign in Alabama.”

The National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, the United Auto Workers and the Southern Poverty Law Center have requested meetings with auto executives hoping to discuss how the bill is affecting the state’s image and, potentially, its economy.

Hyundai won’t take a position on HB 56:

Chris Hosford, a spokesman for Hyundai, confirmed in an e-mail that the company had received the groups’ letter and said the company does not take a position on the immigration law one way or the other.

Elise Foley has more about Hyundai:

As civil rights groups fight Alabama House Bill 56, considered the most extreme bill in the U.S. aimed at driving out undocumented immigrants, they are seeking help from foreign corporations such as Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, all of which have plants in the state.

Hyundai, at least, appears to have noticed. An executive sent a letter last week to dealerships warning of protests by immigrant rights groups, including a hotline set up with information about picketing or other activity.

“We understand that protests are very stressful,” Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America executive vice president of sales, wrote to dealerships. “If any activity occurs surrounding your dealership, please make every effort to remain calm. Do not confront the protesters, and instruct your employees not to do so either. Although it is difficult, try to continue business as usual to the maximum extent possible.”

You know what else is stressful? A law that is trying to make life so difficult for people that they pack up and leave. Stressful is a law that causes farmers to lose millions of dollars because their crops are rotting in the field. Stressful is living in fear every time a person leaves their home. 

Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes have sidled up to lawmakers in Alabama to obtain tax benefits for their corporations. Now, they can use their influence to end HB 56. 

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