Democratic base split on immigration, says former Rep. Artur Davis
Although Democratic legislators say they’re allied and united in favor of “diversity” and immigration, their supporters are deeply split, former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis told The Daily Caller.
“There is so much tension in every community… there are a lot of splits over immigration,” said Davis, who quit politics in 2010 after trying to win the Democratic nomination for governor in his home state of Alabama. For eight years, he represented the state’s 7th Congressional District, which was designed to include an African-American majority.
Some progressive African-American representatives, such as Georgia’s John Lewis, publicly ally with Hispanic ethnic advocates, such as Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, to champion cultural “diversity” and acceptance of illegal immigrants.
They’re supported by administration officials, including top leaders at Department of Justice who have sued four states to halt new reforms that are intended to curb employers’ use of low-wage illegal immigrants. On Nov. 28, for example, Tom Perez, who heads the department’s civil litigation division, will hold a limited-access press conference in Alabama to rally progressives’ opposition to the state’s popular and bipartisan reform law.
The progressives’ diversity caucus gets a lot of favorable press, but most members of the Congressional Black Caucus keep a low profile on the issue. That’s because many of their African-American constituents oppose immigration and resent Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal.
The resentment is focused on the perceived loss of jobs in construction, food-service and building-maintenance, and to the increased difficulties that young African-Americans face when seeking employment in workplaces where most of the employees speak Spanish.
Less that half of 20-something African-American males are employed full-time, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“African Americans are bitterly split over this issue… they have come to view it as a form of job competition,” said Davis.
Hispanic legislators are avid champions for additional immigration of Hispanic voters. But Hispanic voters are also divided about immigration.
The divide among Hispanics can be seen in polling, which shows Hispanics saying that jobs, the economy and education are their top political priorities, not amnesty or further immigration.
Few Hispanics openly oppose further immigration, and many interpret any criticism of illegal immigration as a blanket criticism of Hispanics.
The issue is made more sensitive in the Hispanic community by the prevalence of mixed-status families. For example, extended families may include only one spouse with legal residency, younger children who are citizens, some in-laws facing deportation, and other relatives who are unemployed or frightened by cross-border gang activity.
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See more from our series with former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis: