Liberal Critics of Alabama’s Immigration Law Press Hyundai to Oppose It

By Thomas Cloud | March 20, 2012 | 7:08 PM EDT

Hyundai’s factory in Montgomery, Alabama is the Korean automaker’s first assembly and manufacturing plant in the United States. (Photo: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama)

( – Advocacy groups opposed to Alabama’s tough new immigration law are urging Korean automaker Hyundai, which has a large plant in the state, to oppose the measure.

Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights president and CEO Wade Henderson, and Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union attended a recent Hyundai shareholders’ meeting in Seoul to present their case for why the company should oppose the law, HB 56.

According to Henderson, Hyundai accounts for two percent of Alabama’s GDP.

In a conference call with reporters from the South Korean capital, Yoon called the legislation a “hatred law.”

“Alabama’s HB 56 is very clear,” he said, “It is a hatred law taking away the fundamental rights of immigrants and forcing our children to cry and live in fear and promoting racial profiling. In a country when children are crying it means our future is crying.”

“I can say without fear of contradiction that HB 56 is the most vile anti-immigration law in the country,” said Henderson.

Medina criticized the law not only as a human rights violation, but said that it created a bad business climate.

“Alabama has failed in its commitment to Hyundai in providing them with a good business environment,” he said. Medina argued that because of the law, Hyundai was now involved in a human rights disaster.

The three all denied that the protests over HB 56 had anything to do with Alabama being a right-to-work state.

“To my knowledge there’s no union that has indicated that they have any interest in this issue because of that,” said Medina.

Robert Burns, senior manager of public relations and sales for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, told that Hyundai had not seen any drop-off in production since the law was enacted last summer.

“Our manufacturing facility in Alabama, which employs over 2,500 team members, is working very hard, in fact ten-hour days, two shifts, to produce 1,300 vehicles a day to meet the growing consumer demand for the Hyundai products we produce,” he said.

Burns said demand for the vehicles has been growing over the past two years. “At this point there is no change in our production schedule.”

Designed to prevent illegal immigrants of any nationality from settling in the state, Alabama’s HB 56 is considered the toughest immigration law in the U.S.

The Justice Department challenged the law last August but in September U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn upheld key provisions of the law allowing them to be implemented.

Among parts of the law upheld by Blackburn is a provision that allows police to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of any individual they stop, if they suspect that the individual is in the U.S. illegally.

The law also requires school districts to ascertain and report the number of students who are illegal immigrants. Employers are required to use E-verify – an Internet-based program that checks work authorization – to determine the immigration status of new hires.