Civil rights leaders opposed to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law plan to place targeted advertisements discouraging potential convention-goers and beach vacationers from vacationing or planning conventions in Alabama. In addition, the opponents of the law plan to hold up banners and signs outside 70 Hyundai dealerships informing customers about the law.
Representatives from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center and United Auto Workers announced the new plan in a conference call Thursday morning. The plan is intended to put pressure on Alabama businesses and encourage them to ask their legislators for repeal of the anti-immigrant law, which is known colloquially as HB56.
The effort comes in the wake of a legislative session in which Alabama lawmakers made the anti-immigrant law stricter and expanded its reach. Lawmakers added a section, known as the “scarlet letter provision,” which requires the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to publish information about unlawfully present immigrants being processed in the state court system.
Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said their effort is not intended to impact any specific business in the state. “We are trying to demonstrate, however, that we can have an impact on preventing the kind of ‘business as usual’ climate that Alabama has been able to create by suggesting that it is a desirable location for businesses or visitors who are interested in coming to that part of the country.”
“We are not going to allow that charade to continue,” Henderson said.
The group plans to place ads in “one or two” national publications discouraging tourism to Alabama’s Gulf coast. According to Henderson, the group has yet to decide what publications to purchase ads in, but said they will have a “broad reach,” and that their efforts will be concentrated on people from outside of Alabama.
The coalition also plans to target conventions being held or planned in Alabama.
“We are going to be reaching out to organizations that we know are contemplating using Alabama as the site of their national conventions or meetings that they’re proposing in the state, and we’re going to encourage them not to do so,” Henderson said. “We’re going to ask them to look at the consequences of this immigration act for the residents of Alabama — for their own members who may be coming to the state — and in essence lay out, in great detail, how what the changes in the law and the existing and underlying statute would actually do in making conditions uncertain for many who would like to visit the state.”
Henderson said they also plan to ask groups that already have plans to hold conventions in Alabama “to assist us in helping to educate” other businesses and legislators about HB56.
“We believe that this public education campaign and this discouragement of investing tourism dollars in Alabama will have a significant economic impact on the state, and we intend to escalate that impact as the circumstances require.”
HB56 opponents also plan to target Hyundai customers with banners and signs outside of 70 Hyundai dealerships in Alabama and elsewhere, starting today. Mary Bauer, the legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the signs will display messages like “Stand up against hate,” or “Stand up for our children.”
There are three major auto companies with major production facilities in Alabama: Honda, Daimler AG (owner of Mercedes-Benz), and Hyundai. Together they control more than 45,000 jobs in the state, and they are a major economic driver for Alabama. Representatives from the anti-HB56 movement have already approached the boards of Daimler AG and Hyundai about fighting HB56, and Henderson said they have plans to meet with Honda’s board. The group has targeted Hyundai for their “education” campaign before the other carmakers because they approached Hyundai about fighting the immigration law before the other carmakers.
“The order in which we visited the companies put Hyundai first among equals,” Henderson said.
“This economic campaign that we have outlined today is really born of the failure of leadership on the part of the governor and state legislators in Alabama who have helped engineer this catastrophe for the state,” Henderson said.
Federal courts are looking at blocking many provisions of HB56, but Mary Bauer said they are ignoring provisions that she says allow racial profiling.
“Whatever the Supreme Court decides is legal, it doesn’t mean that this law is a good idea,” Bauer said.