A coalition of civil rights organizations and labor unions seeking to repeal Alabama’s immigration law vowed Thursday to spend advertisement dollars discouraging potential visitors from coming to the state.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told reporters in a conference call that the group would fund a public education program discouraging businesses and vacationers from visiting Alabama while House Bill 56 is in place. No dollar amount was mentioned for the program.
The Alabama law requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect of being in the country illegally. Approved last June by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, the law took effect in September, but sections were put on hold by the federal courts.
A federal appeals court has said it will await the Supreme Court’s Arizona ruling before deciding whether to strike down any aspects of the Alabama law.
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 some in Alabama.
Cindy Estrada, national vice president of the United Auto Workers, said the group plans to have protesters pass out informational fliers at Hyundai dealerships and carry banners with slogans that include "stand up against hate," and "stand up for our children."
Henderson said the campaign is not a boycott of Hyundai, but a signal that the coalition would not tolerate a "business as usual" attitude.
HB 56 could cost the state between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion in annual gross domestic product, based on estimates that 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented workers would flee, according to a 2011 study by University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy.