Black Leaders: Immigration Bill Will ’Harm’ African American Workers

Published on June 3rd, 2013


by Matthew Boyle
June 3, 2013

Several black leaders of various political persuasions have banded together to warn Congress of the harm they think the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill will inflict upon black workers if passed. The group, the Black American Leadership Alliance, wrote to members of the Gang of Eight, the Congressional Black Caucus, and members from states with the highest levels of black unemployment.

“Given the fact that more than 13% of all blacks are unemployed – nearly double that of the national average, it is our position that each Member of Congress must consider the disastrous effects that Senate Bill 744 would have on low skill workers of all races, while paying particular attention to the potential harm to African Americans,” the letter argues. “Credible research indicates that black workers will suffer the greatest harm if this legislation were to be passed. We are asking that you oppose Senate Bill S.744 because of the dramatic effect it will have on the availability of employment for African American workers.”

Perhaps more significant than the argument being made is the political diversity of the letter’s signers. These facts have been presented to members of Congress before by select members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, but those efforts did not result in changes to the immigration reform bill. Now, there are at least some black community leaders who represent the political left who have signed onto this argument–a new development that may help connect with Democrats in Congress.

T. Willard Fair, the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, signed the letter. Though Fair is a Republican, President Obama appointed him in 2010 and 2011 to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships-Miami Regional Selection Panel.

Former U.S. Department of Justice immigration attorney and current executive director of liberal group Progressives for Immigration Reform, Leah V. Durant, signed the letter as well. Frank Morris, PhD, a board member of Progressives for Immigration Reform and the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, put his signature on the letter as well. 

Conservative signers include Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) founder and president Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson and radio host and The Black Sphere executive director Kevin Jackson.

“Many studies have shown that black Americans are disproportionately harmed by mass immigration and amnesty,” they wrote. “Most policy makers who favor the legalization of nearly 11 million aliens fail to acknowledge that decades of high immigration levels has caused unemployment to rise significantly, most particularly among black Americans. They further fail to consider how current plans to add 33 million more legal workers within ten years will have an enormously disastrous effect on our nation’s jobs outlook.”

The letter authors point to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that states “that 40 percent of the decline in employment rates for low skilled black men in recent decades was due to immigration.” They also cite studies from Harvard University professors Borjas and Katz that they wrote “found that immigration reduced the earnings of certain native born laborers by as much as eight percent and other demographic groups by 2 to 4 percent.”

“Many blacks compete with immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, for low skilled jobs due to skill level and geography, and there are simply not enough of these jobs to go around,” the letter continues. “Consider the fact that nearly 51% of African Americans do not have a higher education. In 2011, 24.6% of blacks without a high school diploma were unemployed. Even blacks with a high school diploma were unemployed at a rate of 15.5% that same year. Passing legislation to add additional workers to an already swamped labor market will only exacerbate these statistics.”

The letter writers noted that these facts are publicly available, and have been promoted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Nonetheless, they say career politicians have ignored them to pursue politically motivated pieces of legislation, like the Gang of Eight bill. They wrote that “many lawmakers have chosen to do nothing, putting politics over the well-being of constituents.”

“If passed, the proposed immigration bill will be costly for all Americans, but will harm black American workers more than any other group,” they wrote. “Mass immigration and amnesty puts African Americans from all walks of life out of work and suppresses wages, causing them to compete with aliens willing to work in poorer working conditions for cheaper pay."

"When almost one in seven blacks is unemployed, now is not the time to further saturate the labor force with increased immigration levels and amnesty," the signers argue. "If Congress fails to stop this irresponsible legislation, the United States will continue to see more and more blacks out of jobs and unable to support their families.”

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