By Joe Guzzardi
October 14, 2013
At a journalists’ conference last week, New York Times lead immigration reporter Julia Preston compared granting amnesty to illegal immigrants to the black1960s civil rights movement. Preston isn’t the only one to do so. Gang of 8 architects Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez have echoed the same deceit hoping, as does Preston, that claiming the moral high ground might give amnesty advocates an edge in the ongoing immigration debate.
As American historians know, no parallel exists between aliens trivializing their illegal entry with native-born black American citizens who were denied their civil rights because of their skin color.
Illegal immigrants never endured the Klu Klux Klan, lost infants when their churches were fire bombed, had public universities ban them, or rode in the back of the bus. Unlike blacks who faced open hostility, the opposite has been true for illegal immigrants. In most cases, they have been welcomed and gotten jobs, subsidized education and health care. Now, they’re pressing for citizenship.
Jesse L. Peterson, the Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny founder, remembers that when he participated in civil rights marches, he was “a citizen fighting for his God-given rights—constitutional rights.” Peterson can’t comprehend how lawbreakers can protest and insist on rights to which they’re not entitled.
As distasteful as it is when immigration advocates plead that amnesty should pass because of its link to civil rights, it’s inexcusable when black leaders assert the same falsehood. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Congressional Black Caucus have said repeatedly that in the name of civil rights comprehensive immigration reform legislation must pass this year.
Other blacks, however, know that huge increases in legal and illegal immigration have hurt African-Americans more than any demographic. Frank L. Morris, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Forum, urged the CBC and President Obama to reduce immigration and enforce existing laws rather than compound the damage that ill-conceived and unenforced immigration policies have inflicted on Americans in general and black Americans in particular. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U-3 unemployment rate among African Americans is 13 percent, nearly twice the white rate. The U-6 unemployment rate that includes those marginally attached to the work force is 20 percent.
T. Willard Fair, Urban League of Greater Miami president offers this example of how cheap immigrant labor hurts blacks. Asks Fair: “If there's a young black man who's good with his hands and wants to become a carpenter, which is more likely to help him achieve that goal — amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?
A newspaper and its reporters should inform, not advocate. Too few understand the consequences on 20 million unemployed Americans of legislation that would grant 11 million illegal immigrants instant work authorization. That’s a scandal that deserves in depth investigative reporting. Instead, journalists sympathetic to illegal immigrants dwell on whether amnesty for millions is justified based on civil rights.
Reporters should heed the example of someone who truly understands civil rights, Coretta Scott King. In 1991, five years after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act passed, Senator Orrin Hatch introduced legislation that would repeal employer sanctions against those who hired aliens. King interceded. She wrote to Hatch to remind him of “devastating consequences” such an action would have on unemployed and semi-skilled workers, the majority of which are African-American and Hispanic.
King would agree that likening today’s illegal immigrants to African-Americans’ fight 50 years ago for equality insults not only blacks but intelligent people of all races and creeds.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]