To Honor Martin Luther King, Administration Needs Pro-Worker Policies

Published on January 13th, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
January 13, 2015

Last November, President Obama declared his executive action that will harm all American workers, but will disproportionately hurt unemployed African-Americans. There’s little doubt that Martin Luther King would be proud that Americans elected and re-elected an African-American to lead the nation. However, King would be deeply troubled by Obama’s willingness, if not eagerness, to grant up to five million illegal immigrants work permits which will allow them to compete in an increasingly tight labor market with African-Americans for scarce jobs. Since the average amnestied illegal immigrant has a 10th grade education, he’s likely to vie with under-educated African-Americans for low-skilled, low wage jobs.

King, it should be remembered, lived in the era before the 1965 Immigration Act and the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, and during a period when legal immigration was limited and the federal government enforced its laws against illegal entry.

More available workers, which Obama’s executive action creates, reduce wages for native-born domestic workers who must compete with immigrants, a simple matter of supply and demand.  Those added workers inevitably contribute to more poverty among working-age Americans, specifically minorities, and more social injustice.  Black Americans U-6 unemployment rate is 19.2 percent, and they correctly feel that their government has abandoned them. Giving permanent legal status and work permission to about one million foreign nationals each year, as is the federal government’s autopilot policy, understandably deepens their frustration.

The White House spins endless political hyperbole on waging the war against poverty and ending income inequality. But every year, those battles lose ground. The Brookings Institute’s research shows poverty increasing not only in inner cities, but also in suburbs. After examining suburban neighborhoods in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, Brookings Fellow Elizabeth Kneebone found that since 2000, communities in which more than 20 percent of the residents live below the poverty line has doubled. Poor inner city populations have increased 66 percent during the same period. Kneebone also found that more poor people now live in suburbs than in cities.  Between years 2008-2012, 53 percent of black residents live in suburban areas where the poverty rate is 20 percent or higher.

The labor glut/job shortage has even adversely affected African-American college graduates. Among recent graduates ages 22 to 27, the U-3 jobless rate for blacks last year was 12.4 percent. Nevertheless, Obama has encouraged Congress to pass legislation that would allow hundreds of thousands of foreign-born workers to come to the U.S., and take jobs that educated black Americans are qualified for. More immigration, either through traditional annual increases or presidential actions, exacerbates a growing economic and societal crisis.

Obama and the Black Hispanic Caucus have deserted African-Americans. Since Obama’s 2009 inauguration, inflation-adjusted median income for black families dropped from $34,880 to $33,321 while food stamp dependency increased from 7.3 million recipients to 10 million, and home ownership declined. As for the caucus, 100 percent of its members vote for more immigration every time Congress introduces a bill.

Dr. King understood that unemployment is a miscarriage of justice. In the last sermon he delivered before he was assassinated, he said to the gathered crowd at Washington D.C.’s National Cathedral: “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.”

The White House and Congress must adopt a pro-active stance to reduce legal immigration to levels consistent with the nation’s needs. Today, that means limiting immigration until America reaches full employment instead of a unilateral executive amnesty that’s guaranteed to undermine U.S. workers’ futures.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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