02/13/2012 10:08 am ET Updated Apr 14, 2012

Civil Rights Groups Urge Automakers to Take a Stand Against HB 56

Earlier today, NCLR joined a coalition of civil rights and labor groups, including the NAACP, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and UAW--one of the nation's largest labor unions--to call on Alabama's business leaders to meet with the civil rights and labor community and join in the effort to oppose HB 56. Passed in 2011, HB 56 is a discriminatory law that has legitimized racial profiling, harassed persons of color regardless of legal status, compromised the education of all children, and harmed the state's economy.

Evidence of the detrimental effects that this legislation has had on business in Alabama continues to mount. A new report by the University of Alabama estimates that HB 56 could cost the state between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion in economic output, $264.5 million in tax revenue, and 70,000 to 140,000 direct and indirect job losses. The heavy-handed nature of HB 56 has also created an unwelcoming environment for foreign investment. In fact, after the law was implemented, a German Mercedes-Benz manager and a Honda executive from Japan were detained for not carrying the identification documents required under HB 56.

This is why this coalition of civil rights and labor organizations reached out to the three top foreign automobile manufacturers in Alabama--Honda, Hyundai, and Daimler AG, which owns Mercedes-Benz--requesting a meeting to discuss the problems surrounding this discriminatory law. The automobile industry was at the forefront of rebuilding Alabama's economy in the aftermath of the civil rights crisis that gripped the state throughout the 60s' and continues to rely heavily on the Latino population for growth. These companies are also some of the most innovative in the world with solid records promoting diversity. We strongly believe that their companies should not want to do business in a state that is trying to replicate some of its most egregious sins of the past century.

We are very pleased to announce that NCLR has received a response from Hyundai and that we hope to be sitting down with them in the very near future. We also hope that other prominent automakers and businesses leaders will follow suit so that we can work with them to restore justice to the state of Alabama. NCLR, the Latino community in Alabama and nationally, and our partner organizations are determined to do whatever we can to repeal this repellent law.

Legislators in Alabama have made no bones about it; HB 56 is designed to make living in Alabama so unbearable for immigrants that they have no choice but to leave. Instead of working to find a practical solution to the immigration problem faced by our country, Alabama legislators chose to trample on the civil rights of state citizens, enacting a law that encourages racial profiling, punishes innocent children, and jeopardizes the entire economic well-being of the state. Alabama may have turned its back on its people, but NCLR and the civil rights community will not. We urge the automakers and other businesses, many of whom came to Alabama with the understanding that this state had moved beyond its dark history with civil rights, to join us in opposition to discriminatory anti-Latino and anti-immigrant policies in the state of Alabama.