The rewrite of immigration law now being pushed by President Barack Obama and major industry groups will disadvantage poor African-American communities, two Republican members of the federal U.S. Commission on Civil Rights say.
A “grant of legal status [to roughly 11 million illegal immigrants] will likely disproportionately harm lower-skilled African-Americans by making it more difficult for them to obtain employment and depressing their wages when they do obtain employment,” said the Feb. 12 letter by the commission’s vice chairwoman, Abigail Thernstrom and commissioner Peter Kirsanow.
The letter highlights the impact of a conditional amnesty on blue-collar African-Americans, who face increased competition for jobs and housing from the latest wave of immigrants. The competition is sharpened by the economy, which stalled in the last quarter of 2012.
The rewrite, dubbed a “comprehensive immigration reform,” is supported by many business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the immigration lawyers’ associations.
But most liberal advocacy groups — including those dedicated to helping African-Americans — are also backing the immigration rewrite now sought by President Barack Obama and many Democratic leaders.
On Feb. 4, for example, several leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus announced their support for the pending rewrite of immigration law, which advocates say will provide a ticketed path to citizenship for the 11 million illegals, allow their foreign family members to get residency cards and also create a new way for companies to import many more unskilled and skilled workers.
“While the black constituency is very, very important for the left, it is at least momentarily trumped by the desire to appeal to [Hispanics,] the fastest-growing electoral group,” Kirsanow told The Daily Caller.
Supporters of large-scale immigration should be asked, said Kirsanow, “why [have] you preferred the interests of non-Americans to the interests of their own citizens?”
The black caucus stayed out of the 2006 and 2007 immigration controversies.
“I would say a bulk of my listenership is anti-immigration,” said Earl Ingram, host of a talk-radio show in Milwaukee, Wisc. “They look at what’s going on with immigration as an affront to African-Americans who can’t pay their mortgages because many of the immigrants come here, they are hired at less than minimum wage,” he told reporters for the McClatchy newspaper chain.
In 2008, the civil-rights commission held a hearing to discuss the impact of immigration on low-skilled African-Americans. All the witnesses “agreed that elevated levels of immigration have an adverse impact on wage and employment rates of low-skilled workers,” said Kirsanow.
“The obvious question is whether there are sufficient jobs in the low-skilled labor market for both African-Americans and illegal immigrants,” said the letter to top congressional leaders.
“The answer is no,” the letter said. “[Unemployment] statistics suggest both that there is an overall surplus of workers in the low-skilled labor market, and that African-Americans are particularly disfavored by employers.”
In January, the formal unemployment rate for African-Americans was 13.8 percent, far above the white rate of seven percent.
In addition, roughly 800,000 African-Americans quit the workforce from January 2009 to January 2013.
In 2011, less than 50 percent of African-American men aged below 30 had full time jobs, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller.
The competition from illegal immigrants also drives down salaries for poor Americans, the commissioners said in their letter.
Their letter cited research by Julie Hotchkiss, an economist and policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. She concluded that competition from illegal immigrants from 2000 to 2007 dropped wages for leisure and hospitality workers by 9.1 percent, and by 2.9 percent for workers in Georgia.
“Due deliberation should be given to what effect such grant will have on the employment and earnings prospects of low-skill Americans generally and black Americans specifically,” the letter concluded.
“We respectfully submit that granting such legal status is not without substantial costs to American workers.”