Ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, an anti-immigration group released an ad claiming President Obama’s executive action to give work authorization to some undocumented immigrants betrays the civil rights icon’s vision for America. The Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) ad criticizes the president for “losing sight of Dr. King’s dreams,” while manufacturing tension between two minority groups that have high rates of unemployment. The ad is being aired on national cable news networks and local TV stations in Los Angeles, California.
Featuring poignant music and black and white photos, an ominous voice asks viewers whether Dr. King wanted African Americans and Hispanic Americans to struggle with high unemployment, underemployment and wage stagnation:
On Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, we must ask how would he feel about: 20 percent African Americans unemployed or underemployed; About giving amnesty and jobs to 11 million illegal aliens with so many jobless Americans; About admitting 30 million more immigrant workers when 17 percent of Hispanic Americans are having trouble finding work; About Americans of all races not seeing a wage increase in 40 years.
Was that Dr. King’s dream?
The CAPS ad bears a striking resemblance to another Martin Luther King Jr. ad that the organization released last year, though they took that opportunity to criticize comprehensive immigration reform.
In reality, many civil rights leaders who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. have called for immigration reform; Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) was even arrested last year for civil disobedience while participating in a rally for the cause.
In its press release, CAPS noted that “the November 2014 U6 unemployment rate for African Americans was 19.2 percent and for Hispanic Americans, 13.6 percent.” Of course, African American unemployment rates have been high for decades before the president’s executive actions, generally double that of the white population. And studies have already debunked the dubious arguments linking high unemployment with increased immigration. Namely, U.S.-born African Americans and undocumented immigrants do not compete for the same jobs.
Anti-immigration groups have been keen on pitting vulnerable minority populations against each other. But as a new Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the Fiscal Policy Institute report found, both undocumented and legal immigrants are actually job creators, making up 28 percent of Main Street business owners. The report stated, “between 2000 and 2013, immigrants were responsible for all of the net growth in Main Street business nationally as well as in 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas,” with Main Street business owners earning $13 billion.
The Council of Economic Advisers found that the president’s executive action would raise the national GDP by $90 billion after ten years. In California, undocumented immigrants who qualify under his announcement could contribute anywhere between $11.7 billion to $27.5 billion in GDP. It’s expected that about 466,000 undocumented immigrants could qualify for the president’s executive action in Los Angeles where CAPS is aggressively pushing out this ad.