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Alabama and Its Anti-Immigrant Law, HB 658, Face Increased Pressure From Civil Rights and Labor Groups

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Alabama’s social and economic crisis continues after the state legislature passed another law that actually made worse what was already the worst racial profiling law in the nation, HB 56.  And the backlash is growing against Alabama.

Yesterday, on a call with reporters, national civil and labor rights leaders announced next steps in the ongoing battle for justice in Alabama, including plans to fight HB 56 and the recent “tweaks” to the law through the court system, to escalate pressure on top companies operating in Alabama, and to address complaints to international tribunals.

Joining the call were  Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Cindy Estrada, National Vice President of the United Auto Workers and Mary Bauer, Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The call garnered a lot of media coverage. Here’s a sample:

Associated Press: Immigration groups say tourists should avoid Alabama:

A national coalition of civil rights and labor organizations said Thursday they will run advertisements around the country encouraging people not to visit tourist sites in Alabama because of the state’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Leaders of the group said in a telephone news conference Thursday that they also plan to have demonstrations in front of 73 Hyundai dealerships around the county to encourage the South Korean auto manufacturer to publicly take a stance against Alabama’s immigration law.

Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said changes the Alabama Legislature made this year to the law have not resolved the problems civil rights organizations had with the law that has been described as the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country.

The Birmingham News: Opponents plan legal, economic challenge to immigration law:

Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that, since efforts to appeal to lawmakers have been met with indifference, groups are attempting to up the ante in their effort to get the law repealed or greatly modified.

“Our message to the Legislature is simple. If we can’t appeal to your humanity, we then will appeal to your pocketbooks,” Henderson said in a conference call with reporters.

Participants in the call included representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the United Auto Workers. Lawmakers this month approved revisions to the state’s immigration law instead of repealing it as opponents wanted.

Henderson said there will be “targeted advertising” to discourage tourists and groups from choosing Alabama for their vacations and conferences “Alabama is not a state at this time that is worthy … of your contributions and support,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the actions are not a boycott against the state.

“However, we strongly believe only through a gradual escalation of pressure on key economic sectors of Alabama can we achieve the policy changes our coalition and most Alabama citizens would support,”   Henderson said.

Montgomery Advertiser: Groups plan campaigns to discourage travel, enlist Hyundai’s help in fight against immigration law:

Representatives of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the United Auto Workers and the Southern Poverty Law Center said on a conference call Thursday they are not calling for a boycott of state business. However, they said appeals for repeal of the law on humanitarian grounds had failed with Alabama lawmakers.

“Our message is simple,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “If we can’t appeal to your humanity, then we will appeal to your pocketbooks.”

Cindy Estrada, a national vice president for the United Auto Workers, said the group will display banners and distribute leaflets at 73 Hyundai dealerships around the country aimed at enlisting the company, which has a plant outside Montgomery, in the repeal efforts.

The group will not picket the dealerships, Estrada said, but aim “to let Hyundai’s customers know (Hyundai) did not stand against HB 658, and by their silence endorse a law that hurts their large Latino customer base.”

Press-Register: Immigration law opponents plan campaign against Alabama economy:

The group said it has not decided where it will spend the money, but it expects to publish ads outside of Alabama, most likely in one or two national publications. The coalition said it would also ask any organization that has planned to have its national meeting in the state not to do so.

“Alabama has spent millions in outreach to promote Alabama as a safe environment and a desirable location to spend your summer tourism dollar,” Henderson said.

“We know that not to be true. We believe this will have a significant economic impact on the state and we had hoped that by this education, changes in the law could be made.”

The group also plans to step up its efforts in pressuring Alabama’s foreign automakers to speak out against HB 56, with several demonstrations scheduled to take place starting today at 73 Hyundai dealerships across the country, including one in Decatur, near Huntsville.

ABC 33/40: Civil rights groups attack Alabama’s immigration law

The next step in the battle against Alabama’s immigration law attacking the purse strings of state leaders. Civil rights activists – along with the United Auto Workers Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center plan to organize a boycott.

The effort begins now just as the Summer travel season picks up. These groups hope to discourage travelers from visiting the top money-making tourism sites.

“We believe that focusing on Alabama’s tourism industry which is now only beginning to recover from the Gulf oil disaster of a few years ago, hopefully will help spur a discussion in the state,” Wade Henderson, Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said.

The movement may also hit Hyundai dealers hard. The Hyundai plant in Montgomery brings in significant revenue and these civil rights groups are aiming to slow things down.