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Immigration Advocates Ask Auto Manufacturers to Stand Against HB 56, Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

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repeal hb 56 nowActivists fighting for a repeal of Alabama’s immigration law, HB 56, announced today that they have called on the state’s auto manufacturers to stand with them against Alabama’s “backward immigration policy.”  (We live-tweeted the press conference here.)

“There is no fix for H.B. 56,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said during the call.  “The only option that makes any sense – and the only option that will help Alabama restore its reputation in the U.S. and with the international business community – is for the legislature to approve a complete repeal of this obnoxious law.”

Activists want to make clear that HB 56 is causing a civil rights and humanitarian crisis across the state, and that the silence of foreign investors who do business there is effectively an endorsement of Alabama’s extremist law.

As Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza said:

The companies we have approached through this campaign are some of the most innovative in the world.  So we ask, why would these 21st century companies want to do business in a state that is trying to replicate some of its most egregious sins of the past century?

Auto manufacturers and their foreign employees in Alabama have already crossed paths with the noxious immigration law.  In a well-publicized embarrassment for the state last year, two business executives with Mercedes-Benz and Honda were detained for driving without an Alabama driver’s license.  A St. Louis paper in neighboring Missouri promptly put out an editorial enticing foreign companies to invest in their state instead, emphasizing that “we are the Show-Me State, not the ‘show me your papers’ state.”

Other speakers on the call emphasized that a moral stance against the law was in investors’ economic interests.  As Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union said:

H.B. 56 is a PR disaster in the Latino community. Latinos are not going to be drawn to brands that are manufactured in a state steeped, once again, in racism and discrimination that targets them. Foreign investors will think twice about being associated with that brand.

This push echoes a similar effort nearly twenty years ago, back in 1993, when Alabama had to be persuaded to remove the confederate flag from atop its state capitol.  Daimler-Benz then announced plans to open a manufacturing plant in the state, beginning a foreign investment revival that jumpstarted Alabama’s economy.  Foreign investors—many related to the auto industry—flocked to Alabama, expecting a good business environment and a healthy labor market. 

HB 56, however, has tarred much of that promise, with extremist provisions that have split families apart.  The ugliness has already prompted an exodus of immigrants and Hispanics, and an economic analysis published by the University of Alabama has found that this migratory outflow could cost the state as much as $11 billion.

Watch the campaign’s video here: