The high rate of black unemployment was a topic of discussion between President Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Tuesday, but they did not broach how illegal immigration and executive amnesty may have contributed to the problem.
Instead Obama tried to alleviate CBC members’ fears about Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which some caucus members worry could kill jobs.
Obama asked CBC members at Tuesday’s White House meeting to grant him “fast-track” authority on the trade deal, which he insisted is necessary to prevent China from gaining an upper hand in Asia and the Pacific Rim.
The prospect of a trade deal which kills jobs is of special concern for the CBC because the unemployment rate in the African-American community is currently 10.3 percent, compared to a 5.7 percent unemployment rate overall.
California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, one of the CBC’s 46 members, has said she will oppose the trade deal. Citing NAFTA and the major trade agreement between the U.S. and China, Lee wrote that “thirty five percent of jobs lost to China, which totals 1 million American jobs, were from communities of color.”
But by failing to address how immigration in general and Obama’s recent executive decision to grant amnesty — as well as work permits — to up 5 million illegal immigrants, the two sides avoided discussing what many believe is a major contributor to the high unemployment rate among blacks.
Since blacks are disproportionately represented among blue-collar, lower-skilled workers, they are in closer competition for jobs with illegal immigrants.
As Peter Kirsanow, a black member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has said, issuing work permits to an influx of millions of previously undocumented low-skilled workers “will devastate the black community.”
Studies, such as one conducted by Harvard University’s George Borjas, have found a link between increased immigration and declining employment rates for blacks. In a 2009 paper, Borjas found that a 10 percent increase in the number of immigrants working in a particular skill group “lowered the employment rate among black men by 5.9 percentage points.”
The argument has gotten little traction among the CBC and other Democrats though because of the political opportunities more immigrants provides the Democratic Party.
But the prospect of blue-collar workers bearing the brunt of an influx of low-skilled immigrant labor is something Obama himself has acknowledged in the past.
In his 2006 autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama wrote that “there’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.” (RELATED: SHOCK FLASHBACK: Obama Says Illegal Immigration HURTS ‘Blue-Collar Americans,’ STRAINS Welfare)
“Not all of these fears are irrational,” he wrote.
“The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century,” he continued.
“If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole — specially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan — it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”