The group is doing this in response to the signing of a revised version of the original immigration law H.B. 56 and what they see as too little change in the parts of the bill that were deemed so controversial in the first place by its opponents.
“The changes make it more harsh and punitive than before,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Henderson then outlined a two-pronged approach to tackling what he calls “the most vile, anti-immigrant law in the country.”
As for the architects of the law, Henderson explained the fervent desperation with which the groups will attack legislators.
“If we can’t appeal to your humanity, then we will to your pocketbooks,” Henderson said.
The plan will look to begin a thorough review of all possible legal actions to slow down or obstruct the law being implemented while also kicking off a public education campaign that will share information and stories about the effects of the bill on residents in Alabama.
The goal of the public education campaign is to discourage tourism to the state by making people think twice about what is being supported with the money spent here.
Another key facet of the education campaign is what Cindy Estrada, vice president of the United Auto Workers, called “bannering, not picketing.”
Groups of people will be placed at Hyundai dealerships throughout the country to try to inform people about the law before they buy a car from Alabama.
Henderson emphasized it is not a boycott.
“We are not intending to cause Alabamians long lasting economic harm,” Henderson said. “But Alabama is currently a civil and human rights disaster.”
The Supreme Court will be issuing a ruling in the coming months to decided whether immigration laws belong under state or federal jurisdiction, but Mary Bauer, legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the coalition can’t wait for that.
“People are suffering, (and) we felt compelled to move quickly.” Bauer said.
Bauer called H.B. 658 “primarily a concession to big business” and said a provision that calls for quarterly lists of people suspected of being in the state illegally is barbaric and will only “encourage vigilantism.”
She also said “Alabama is once again left to the federal courts because of our legislators kicking the can down the road” and said to thank lawmakers like Sen. Scott Beason for “Latinos continuing to suffer.”
Immigrants make up less than two percent of Alabama’s population and the vast majority of them are not illegal, according to Henderson.
He also added that less than 30,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to reside in Alabama and the state is simply looking for a scapegoat and coming up with a nonexistent problem.
Immigration experts have found that immigration has considerably slowed and even gone into the red since the recession took hold in the U.S. in 2007, according to Henderson.
Most economists agree that immigration, regardless of the legality of it, has a positive net effect on the economy by boosting demand and also contributing with sales taxes and even paying into programs like Social Security.
A study conducted by University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy in January agreed with this theory.
In “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the New Alabama Immigration Law,” Addy said the law could cost the state between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion in annual gross domestic product, based on estimates that between 40,000 and 80,000 undocumented workers would flee.
In December, the law’s champions pointed to the state’s unemployment rate falling from 9.2% to 8.7% as a sign the law was working and putting Alabamians back to work.
Opponents of the bill, along with most economists, found that the gains were mostly in the automobile-making industry where there was not a large immigrant base to begin with.
Industries like farming saw little to no gain in employment in 2011.
Farmers throughout the state are having difficulty filling jobs that had been reliably manned for years, and tomato crops that are on the verge of being ripe may rot in the fields if laborers can’t be found to harvest them.
Anticipating the change brought by the law, many farmers only planted only on small fractions of their land.
Estrada pointed out that across the country people are seeing Alabama as a bad example of how to handle immigration policy.
Mississippi leaders routinely cited failures of Alabama’s law as reasons why they shouldn’t pass a law remotely similar to it, according to Estrada.
Estrada said the key for opponents of the law is action, and any lack of that may end all hope for change in the state.
“We are only in the beginning of (a process that) may take a long time, but silence is an endorsement of a pointless and racist law,” Estrada said.