Black leaders: Gang of 8 ‘devastating’ for black community

Caroline May | Reporter

A group of black leaders will issue an open letter Monday calling on members of the Senate “Gang of Eight,” the Congressional Black Caucus, and senators from states with the highest rates of black unemployment to consider the impact the Senate’s immigration bill will have on black unemployment.

“[It] is our position that each Member of Congress must consider the disastrous effects that Senate Bill 744 would have on low skill workers of all races, while paying particular attention to the potential harm to African Americans. Credible research indicates that black workers will suffer the greatest harm if this legislation were to be passed,” the letter, signed by members of the Black American Leadership Alliance, reads.

Currently the black unemployment rate hovers around 13 percent, nearly twice the national average.

Citing separate research from Harvard University economics professor George Borjas, University of California San Diego economics professor Gordon H. Hanson, Professor Vernon Briggs of Cornell University, and others, the signers assert that mass legalization and increases in immigration will disproportionately harm black Americans, specifically by depressing wages and increasing competition for low-skill jobs.

“Many studies have shown that black Americans are disproportionately harmed by mass immigration and amnesty,” the letter reads. “Most policy makers who favor the legalization of nearly 11 million aliens fail to acknowledge that decades of high immigration levels have caused unemployment to rise significantly, most particularly among black Americans.”

The letter notes that while the Gang of Eight immigration bill will increase visas for high skilled workers, black workers will be the ones who will suffer the most if the bill passes.

“Of course, some of the immigrants referred to by Senate Bill S. 744 work in high-skill sectors, but the vast majority of them will compete with young Americans for entry level jobs, including jobs traditionally held by black workers in the low skilled wage sector,” the letter says.

The letter explains that one reason for this is that black Americans are disproportionately likely to lack a high-school diploma or a college degree, placing them in direct competition with new immigrants for low-skilled jobs. In 2011, the letter notes, 26.4 percent of black Americans without a high school diploma were unemployed and 15.5 percent of black Americans who had a high school degree were also unemployed.

Further, nearly 51 percent of American blacks have not continued their education beyond high school, the letter says.

“Despite the fact that these figures are readily available and have been reported by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, many lawmakers have chosen to do nothing, putting politics over the well-being of constituents,” the letter reads, noting that the signers believe the bill “will result in suppressed wages for all Americans, but the effects on African Americans will be the most devastating.”

“Nationally, labor participation is at 63.3% — the lowest level since 1979,” the letter continues. “Passage of the Senate’s amnesty bill will continue to flood an already overcrowded labor force and result in reduced wages and opportunities for many black citizens who are least able to afford it. Following even the simplest rules of supply and demand, this increase in available low skilled labor will undoubtedly reduce wages for all workers. However, according to the experts, the impact will be hardest on the black community.”

The signers conclude that if the Senate immigration bill becomes law, more black Americans will be out of work, leaving many unable to support their families.

“The Black American Leadership Alliance is calling upon the Senate Gang of Eight and those Members from states having the highest rates of black unemployment to recognize the devastating effects amnesty and mass immigration has on low-skilled workers, particularly those in the black community,” the letter concludes. “Secondly, we implore each Member to fulfill his or her duty to the millions of Americans struggling to find work by opposing amnesty and supporting policies to reduce overall levels of legal and illegal immigration.”

The letter’s signers include: Frank Morris, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and board member of Progressives for Immigration Reform; Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, president and founder of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny (BOND); Bishop Felton Smith, Prelate of the Tennessee Eastern First Jurisdiction and Senior Pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Church of God in Christ in Nashville, TN; Charles Butler, veteran Chicago area talk show host of “The Take with Charles Butler;” Leah V. Durant, Former US DOJ immigration attorney and executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform; T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami; Vernon Robinson, former council member, Winston-Salem, N.C. and former candidate for U.S. Congressional Office; Kevin Jackson, radio host and executive director of The Black Sphere; Leo Alexander, broadcaster, writer and political commentator in Washington, D.C.; Kevin Martin, author, writer and political commentator; Assistant Bishop Curtis A. Rodgers, Northern Illinois Church of God in Christ; and Tom Broadwater, national chair of Americans 4 Work.

The group plans to protest “amnesty” with a march on the Capitol on Monday, July 15.

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