By Joe Guzzardi
October 25, 2013
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez is the most visible of the many immigration reform advocates. Gutierrez is frequently seen on the news protesting alleged incidents of deportation separating families or ICE terrorizing communities. Earlier this month at an organized protest, U.S. Capitol Hill police arrested Gutierrez on charges of crowding, obstructing and incommoding. Before his arrest, Gutierrez admitted that his actions were staged political theater and acknowledged that he planned his civil disobedience to influence House Speak John Boehner to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ immigration reform task force, was born in Chicago and raised in Puerto Rico. Chicago is part of his Illinois 4th district; its demographic composition is 51 percent non-white of which 75 percent is Latino and 41 percent foreign-born. Many of those Latinos are Puerto Rican and therefore American citizens from birth.
The immigration reform effort that Gutierrez so avidly supports would be damaging to most Chicagoans who Gutierrez represents including American-citizen Puerto Ricans and blacks. Gutierrez’s insistence aside, amnesty would harm Puerto Ricans and African- Americans.
The calculation is simple. No matter what the final form of amnesty legislation, it will grant instant work authorization to illegal immigrants. Chicago’s American-born blacks and Puerto Ricans would suddenly have to compete with newly authorized workers for scarce jobs. Chicago’s overall unemployment is 11 percent.
Blacks and Puerto Ricans have it tough enough without adding thousands of prospective workers to the labor force. For African-Americans, the median family income is $29,000; the poverty rate, 34 percent and unemployment, 20 percent. Conditions are slightly better for Chicago’s Puerto Ricans: family income is $39,000; poverty rate 30 percent and unemployment, 10 percent.
Puerto Rican’s 32 percent high school dropout rate is higher than blacks and whites, a disturbing statistic that dooms young people without a diploma to minimum wage jobs, at best, or long term unemployment, at worst. The prospects for students to get an adequate public education in Chicago are grim. In 2012, teachers went on strike to protest overcrowded, underfunded classrooms.
African-Americans, Hispanics, young adults, and the less-educated are far more likely to be unemployed in the United States than other groups. Anyone who falls into a combination of those categories will find their job search especially challenging.
Chicago has other problems beyond minority unemployment. The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified Chicago as the nation’s murder capital. Even though Chicago has only one-third as many residents as New York, it recorded 500 murders in 2012, up sharply from 431 2011. Murders in New York dropped to 419 last year compared to 515 in 2011. Of the Chicago gun men who shot and wounded a victim, only 6 percent were charged.
Even though most of Gutierrez’s time and taxpayer dollars are spent on behalf of his district’s non-voting illegal immigrants, he’s been overwhelmingly re-elected since 1992. This is a classic case of unenlightened electorate acting against its own best interests.
Amnesty for Chicago’s illegal aliens and expanded legal immigration, which Gutierrez also endorses, would hurt Chicago’s already struggling minorities and do nothing for public safety, improve failing schools or create jobs. Gutierrez’s constituents deserve better than to have a U.S. House Representative who undermines them instead of legislating to improve their lives.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]