The Congressional Black Caucus is going to join the push for more low-wage immigration, reversing its stance in 2006 and 2007, when it avoided the controversy.
“Immigration reform will be one of our top three priorities this year,” Ayofemi Kirby, the caucus’ communications director, told The Daily Caller on Wednesday.
The caucus is also trying to protect the “Diversity Visa” program from the GOP’s efforts to zero it, she said. Elimination of the program “would lower the number of [black] immigrants from countries who already have low number of immigrants … [in the United States], especially sub-Sahara and Africa” and Caribbean countries.
“That’s a huge issue for us,” she added, noting that the new policy will be detailed next week.
The caucus will also “be looking at [immigration’s] impact on low-income communities,” she said.
Immigration is a very contentious issue in African-American communities, partly because many African-Americans view immigrant Latinos as competition for low-skill jobs, apartments and government grants.
The formal unemployment rate for African-Americans is 14 percent. In practice, the underemployment and unemployment rates are far higher. For example, only about half of young African-American men have full-time jobs. (RELATED: Federal data show troubling unemployment trends)
African-Americans’ incomes have also fallen dramatically because of the recession, and many African-American neighborhoods and savings have been damaged by a wave of bankruptcies following the 2007 bursting of the post-1996 real-estate bubble.
That economic pressure is acknowledged by African-American advocacy groups that are reluctant to criticize President Barack Obama and other progressive Democrats.
“The country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started [in 2009]. … White people in this country are doing a bit better [and] black people are doing far worse,” Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, told NBC on Jan. 27.
The competition for jobs is highlighted in D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities, where small-scale employers tend to hire workforces that are overwhelmingly Latino or African-American.
However, the widespread and often bitter opposition to immigration is partially muted by many African-Americans’ empathy for Latinos, whose circumstances are often similar to those of blacks.
But African-American politicians and advocates are under intense pressure to keep good relations with influential Hispanic and Asian lobbies, as well as progressive groups, both of which strongly support an immigration rewrite and a conditional-amnesty.
On Capital Hill, the CBC’s leadership are part of the so-called Tricaucus of African-American, Hispanic and Asian caucuses.
But African-American politicians are also under pressure to cooperate with Hispanic lobbies, because some of their districts are increasingly Latino, rather than African-American.
In July 2012, for example, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel narrowly defeated a primary challenge from an ambitious Latino politician, New York state Senator Adriano Espaillat.
Rangel is one of the most senior Democratic politicians in the House.
On Jan. 28, Rangel announced he would push for a major immigration rewrite this year, and a conditional amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“As a proud representative of a congressional district that is home to a huge immigrant population, I have been a longtime advocate for immigration reform … I am committed to supporting the President as he pushes to make the American Dream a reality for everyone in America,” he said in a statement.
The attempted 2006 and 2007 rewrites were backed by Reps. John Conyers and Sheila Jackson-Lee.
Conyer’s district in Michigan includes a growing Muslim population, and Jackson-Lee’s Texas district includes many Hispanics.