Montgomery, Ala. – A top executive of Hyundai, one of Alabama's largest foreign-owned manufacturing companies, is warning all of its dealerships in the United States that they may be the target of protests over the state's controversial immigration law.
The letter from Hyundai vice president of national sales, Dave Zuchowski, said the company had learned that various groups plan demonstrations at Hyundai dealerships and at dealerships of other foreign-owned car companies.
The letter goes on to defend Hyundai's record when it comes to human rights and civil rights. Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford confirmed Monday that the letter was sent to the dealerships by Zuchowski.
"Most recently, a coalition of civil rights organizations and labor unions, including the United Auto Workers (UAW), have reached out to Alabama foreign automakers, Hyundai included, to urge them to use their influence to convince lawmakers to repeal the law," the letter said.
Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed a law that has been called the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country. In a separate statement, officials with the South Korean company said the power to change the immigration law rests with the Alabama Legislature.
Supporters of the immigration law have said they would support efforts to make minor changes, but have said they would oppose any effort to repeal the law.
The letter to dealerships goes on to say that Hyundai, which has a large manufacturing plant in Montgomery, has installed a hotline so that dealers can report protests or any questions they might have.
The dealerships are instructed to try to maintain business as usual and to not confront the protesters.
Republican State Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, Senate sponsor of the immigration law, said he felt any effort to demonstrate at foreign car dealerships would be an effort by "pro illegal immigration groups to make sure states don't enforce laws against illegal immigration."
He said he has no problem with the international companies like Hyundai that are in Alabama and doesn't believe they are hurt by the immigration law.
"These are international companies. They deal with much more stringent laws in other countries," Beason said.
Mary Bauer, chief attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has gone to court to fight the law, said the Hyundai memo is a sign that the immigration law could affect Alabama's ability "to continue to bring good-paying jobs to hard working Alabamians."
In the letter and the statement, Hyundai does not take a position for or against the immigration law. But the statement points out the contribution Hyundai has made to the Alabama economy.
"Hyundai is a significant contributor to the Alabama economy. Our Alabama manufacturing facility and suppliers are responsible for more than 34,000 full-time equivalent jobs statewide and in 2010 generated a total impact of $3.8 billion to the state's economy," the statement said.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.