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Foreign car makers getting dragged into fray over immigration

The Mississippi Legislature’s expected approval of a stringent anti-immigration law that easily passed the state House Wednesday night could become causes of concern in the Tokyo board rooms of Toyota and Nissan, which have manufacturing plants in Mississippi.

This is because the foreign car manufacturers can expect pressure from groups questioning the companies’ silence on the issue in Mississippi at a time they are striving to gain larger shares of the Hispanic market in the United States.

Shareholders of Hyundai, which has a $1.4 billion plant near Montgomery, are getting an earful of protests this week over its refusal to take a stand against Alabama’s far-reaching anti-immigration law. Civil rights and labor organizations traveled Friday to Hyundai’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, to attend a shareholder meeting and pressure the company to speak out against the law.

“We sent a real clear message to the other multinational corporations that we’re not bluffing, that we are truly going to follow up… and they need to take it seriously,” Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said in a press statement.

“[The action] was intended to really press our case in South Korea, and hopefully to have that case reverberate back to Alabama,” Henderson told The Huffington Post. “Officials there have to take to note that this issue has moved beyond their ability to contain it.”

Despite the detention of Hyundai and Mercedes Benz executives under the Alabama “papers please” law, foreign car manufacturers with factories in Alabama have stayed away from the issue, at least publicly. But given their influence in the state, Hyundai, Honda and Daimler AG have been pushed to speak out against the law by civil rights and labor organizations that believe the manufacturers could have a positive impact in the fight against it.

Toyota and Nissan have not reacted to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s call for an Alabama-style immigration measure that would discourage undocumented immigrants from remaining in the state. Bryant claims such a law would save Mississippi about $25 million a year in spending on education, social services and law enforcement and give Mississippians an opportunity to fill jobs now occupied by unauthorized immigrants.

That projection contrasts sharply with a University of Alabama study that projects the Alabama law will cause the state’s economy to take a hit of at least $2.5 billion annually.

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