Montgomery, Alabama – Civil rights and labor groups that are opposed to Alabama's immigration law say they will be warning tourists not to visit the state because of its tough measure, which they say encourages profiling.
Leaders of the coalition 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.
"In fact, they have made the law even harsher and more punitive than it was before. Our message to the Legislature is simple: If we can't appeal to your humanity then we will appeal to your pocketbooks," Henderson said. He said the coalition was not calling for a boycott, but wanted to make people aware of the law.
Jennifer Ardis, press secretary to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, said the protest seems misguided. She said the purpose of Alabama's immigration law is to make sure that people who live and work in the state do so legally.
"There is nothing unkind or unjust about that," Ardis said. "Some people want us to turn a blind eye to the issue of illegal immigration. We will not do so."
The executive director for corporate communications for Hyundai, Chris Hosford, said in a statement that Hyundai has a longstanding commitment to human rights and he does not understand why the company would be singled out for the protest.
"Given our commitment, it is puzzling that the coalition would unfairly single out Hyundai from the state's hundreds of thousands of businesses, including other automakers. Hyundai continues to believe that the coalition's efforts on this important issue would be best directed toward the Alabama Legislature, which enacted and has the power to amend the legislation," Hosford said.
Hyundai's large manufacturing plant in Montgomery is running at full capacity and has about 2,500 employees who manufacture more than 1,300 vehicles a day. The company recently announced plans to add a third shift and 877 new jobs at the plant.
State tourism director Lee Sentell says tourists spent $10.2 billion in Alabama last year. He said it was the first year tourists had spent more than $10 billion in Alabama.
Sentell said immigrants would be hurt by any action that reduces the number of tourists visiting Alabama because of the number of immigrants who have jobs in the tourism industry.
Joining the news conference was Cindy Edwards, national vice president of the United Auto Workers said she is especially concerned about a section of the law that would require families of school children to report their immigration status. That section for now has been stopped by a federal court.
"As a mother, I'm shocked and insulted that out state legislators would vote in favor of a law that discriminates against children ... and creates and environment where kids have to go home and wonder whether or not their parent is going to be there," Edwards said.