While Minority Teen Unemployment Hits Bottom, Obama Pushes for More Immigrant Workers

Published on June 12th, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
June 12, 2015

One of the grave disappointments about President Barack Obama’s administration is how poorly African Americans have fared. During Obama’s campaign, he instilled in minorities and especially in blacks a sincere hope that if elected he would create meaningful change in their lives.

As the old saying goes, presidents campaign in poetry but govern in prose. In that sense, political realists aren’t surprised that Obama has fallen so short of his lofty goals. But even Obama’s staunchest advocates were taken aback during his recent radio address when he pledged to continue fighting for illegal immigrants and to enact his executive action amnesty because, as he has said so often before, it’s the right thing to do. In the end, Obama insisted, amnesty will grow the economy and create more jobs. Obama then delivered the same message in Germany at the G-7 conference where he insisted that work permits for five million unlawful immigrants will fix the “broken” immigration.

If Obama gets his way, those five million work permits would be another dagger in the heart of unemployed, under-employed and disenfranchised black Americans, especially teens who despair of getting a job that will help put them on the path to economic independence.

Obama’s timing on ratcheting up amnesty advocacy is poor. A devastating new report from the Economic Policy Institute found that 51.3 percent of young black high school graduates are underemployed, compared with 36.1 and 33.8 percent respectively of Hispanic and white high school grads.

This means a majority of high school graduates and a significant share of Hispanic youths either want a job or have a job that doesn’t not provide enough hours to generate the income necessary to pay their bills. Comparatively, whites are doing better, but their 33.8 percentage underemployment rate is also unacceptable. 

While labor market conditions have improved since the Great Recession ended, these under-employment rates among young high school graduates remain intolerably elevated relative to pre-recession levels. Conditions are only slightly better for African American college graduates. EPI calculated that 23.0 percent of young black college graduates are underemployed, along with 22.4 percent and 12.9 percent respectively of Hispanics and whites. 

Congress’ recommended solutions is cosmetic. Senator Bernie Sanders(I-VT) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced the Employ Young Americans Now Act that would provide job stimulus funding to state and local communities.

But immigration critics wonder why if Sanders is so concerned about American workers, he voted for the 2013 Gang of Eight bill that would have given employment authorization documents to 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. and more than tripled legal immigration over the next decade. Skeptics also question Conyers’ sincerity since he is an outspoken advocate of Obama’s administrative amnesty that will add five million unlawful immigrants to the labor pool. Barring millions of illegal immigrants from getting work permits would have a more positive effect on jobs than Sanders-Conyers token, do-nothing bill.

Although the subject is taboo in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the Black Congressional Congress, and in the media, the truth is that there’s a direct correlation between high immigration and low teen employment. With nearly one million legal, work authorized immigrants entering the market each year, employers have more choices about who to hire. Sadly, but of little concern to the current administration, America’s minority teenagers have gone to the back of the queue.


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

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