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14 February 2013

Civil Rights Commission: "Granting Illegal Immigrants Effective Amnesty Would 'Harm Lower-Skilled African-Americans'"

By Wynton Hall

Two members of the eight-person U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the independent bipartisan agency tasked with "objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis" of civil rights issues, have warned President Barack Obama that granting illegal immigrants effective amnesty would “harm lower-skilled African-Americans by making it more difficult for them to obtain employment.” 

In the five-page letter, Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and Vice Chair Abigail Thernstrom cite findings from several scholars demonstrating that illegal immigration disproportionately impacts the wage and employment outlook for African-American men. 

Research from UC San Diego economics professor Gordon Hanson, for example, found that from 1960 to 2000, immigration was responsible for 40% of the 18% plunge in black employment rates. The letter also refers to a February 2012 Census Bureau report that found that “50.9% of native-born blacks had not continued their education beyond high school,” placing them in stiffer competition with illegal immigrants vying for low-skilled labor jobs. 

Kirsanow and Thernstrom’s letter to Obama details the bleak economic plight African-Americans are presently experiencing:

The country’s economic woes have disproportionately harmed African-Americans, especially those with little education. In 2011 24.6 percent of African-Americans without a high school diploma were unemployed, as were 15.5 percent of African-Americans with only a high school diploma. Two and half years into the economic recovery, African-Americans face particular difficulty obtaining employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally adjusted January 2013 unemployment rate for all black Americans – not just those with few skills – was 13.8 percent, nearly twice the white unemployment rate of 7.0 percent. The economy has a glut of low-skilled workers, not a shortage.
The civil rights leaders end the letter by urging the president not to exacerbate the economic struggles facing African-Americans by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“Not only do illegal immigrants compete for jobs with African-Americans,” wrote Kirsanow and Thernstrom, “but that competition drives down wages for the jobs that are available... We respectfully submit that granting such legal status is not without substantial costs to American workers.”

T. Willard Fair

T. Willard Fair

From the testimony of T Willard Fair, President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami; Center for Immigration Studies Board Member, before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Committee on the Judiciary - US House of Representatives:

Congressional Testimony: How Mass Immigration Hurts Black Americans

9 May 2007:
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to address this panel.

I have devoted much of my adult life to one of the most important challenges facing our country:

"How to help young black men build constructive lives as fathers and breadwinners. The size of the problem was outlined in a recent book published by the National Urban League entitled The State of Black America 2007: Portrait of the Black Male -- black men are much more likely to be unemployed than white men, more likely to be dropouts, in prison, in poverty, or dead."

There are many reasons for grim statistics like this, including the continuing effects of slavery and Jim Crow; the shift in the economy away from manufacturing; broken schools in our big cities; the glorification of self-destructive behavior by popular culture.
But one factor is too often ignored -- mass immigration.

There was little immigration when the struggle for civil rights began to achieve success in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the 1965 immigration law that started today's mass immigration was itself seen as a civil rights measure, intended to clean out rules that favored immigrants from some countries over others. Sen. Edward Kennedy, then, as now, chairman of the Senate immigration subcommittee, said "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not cause American Workers to lose their jobs."

So much for predictions.

Since 1965, nearly 30 million legal immigrants have come here, plus millions of illegal aliens. The results have been devastating for those Americans -- black or white -- who compete for jobs with this immigrant tide. George Borjas of Harvard has shown that immigration has cut the wages of American men without a high school degree by $1,800 a year. Economists at Northeastern University have found that businesses are substituting immigrants for young American workers, especially for young black men. In fact, scholars estimate that immigration is the reason for one-third of the drop in employment among black men, and even some of the increase in incarceration. 

Of course, none of that means that individual immigrants -- or particular immigrant groups -- can be blamed for the difficulties facing black men. Being pro-Me should never make me anti-You. Nor can we use immigration as a crutch, blaming it for all our problems. The reality is that less-educated black men in America today have a variety of problems -- high rates of crime and drug use, for example, and poor performance at work and school -- that are caused by factors unrelated to level of immigration.

But if cutting immigration and enforcing the law wouldn't be a cure-all, it sure would make my job easier. Take employment -- immigration isn't the whole reason for the drop in employment of black men; it's not even half the reason. But it is the largest single reason, and it's something we can fix relatively easily.

Think about it this way: If there's a young black man in Liberty City, where I live, who's good with his hands and wants to become a carpenter, which is more likely to help him achieve that goal -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?

Which is more likely to help an ex-convict or recovering addict get hired at an entry-level job and start the climb back to a decent life -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?

Which is more likely to persuade a teenager in the inner city to reject the lure of gang life and instead stick with honest employment -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?

And it's not just a matter of jobs. Whatever your views on government social programs, everyone can agree that resources are not infinite -- there's only so much social spending to go around. And since immigrants have relatively low skills and low incomes, they use a lot of social services and pay little in taxes, cutting into the spending on America's own poor. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that illegal aliens alone cost federal taxpayers $10 billion more a year in services than they pay in taxes -- that's $10 billion that's not being spent on disadvantaged Americans, not counting the much larger deficits at the state and local level, where most social services are provided.

Likewise with the schools. This is an issue close to my heart, since I co-founded Florida's first charter school and was recently confirmed as chairman of the statewide Board of Education. We must offer the best education possible to all our children, for their own good and for the good of our country. But as budgets have tightened, school enrollment has surged, and all of the growth in the nation's school-age population -- 100 percent -- comes from immigrant families. This surge in enrolment has led to school overcrowding and has diverted resources that would otherwise have been devoted to at-risk students.

Solutions to the challenges facing black Americans have to come from both private efforts and government initiative -- but regardless of the specific approach, flooding the job market and overwhelming the public schools and other government services undermines all our efforts. 

"The interests of black Americans are clear: No amnesty, no guestworkers, enforce the immigration law."

From Inspector Vajayjay, Andrew Sullivan, January 2013:


Will Immigration Reform Hurt African-Americans?


Seeing Red AZ questions the Democratic coalition:

[W]hy would black American citizens, who have disproportionately high rates of unemployment both locally and nationally, be among those encouraging more illegals to be given legal status — allowing them to compete for jobs these citizens need and should have? … The Business Insider reported that while the overall employment rate remains weak, job reports show that minorities are still getting hit much harder by the job crisis — with African Americans suffering the highest unemployment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate for black Americans jumped to 14.0 percent last month, from 13.2 percent the previous month. Hispanic unemployment was unchanged at 11 percent,while 184,000 more black Americans went jobless.

Mark Krikorian recently made a similar point:

Mass immigration isn’t the only cause of the deep employment problems of less-skilled black workers. It’s not even the main cause. But it’s the easiest one to remedy.

Such conclusions are bolstered by a 2006 paper [pdf] by George Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger and Gordon Hanson for the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Using data drawn from the 1960-2000 U.S. Censuses, we find a strong correlation between immigration, black wages, black employment rates, and black incarceration rates. As immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular skill group, the wage of black workers in that group fell, the employment rate declined, and the incarceration rate rose. Our analysis suggests that a 10-percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 4.0 percent, lowered the employment rate of black men by 3.5 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by almost a full percentage point.

A reader chimes in:

Regardless of how illegal immigration may help the 1% and even the 20%, you better hope the research on this is wrong, else we’re potentially setting up the irony of the first African-American president passing the single most harmful piece of legislation to African-Americans in 25 years.

Previous Dish on the economic benefits of immigration reform here and here.

From The Root in 2010 by Cord Jefferson...


How Illegal Immigration Hurts Black America


 With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it's just not true that undocumented workers are doing the jobs that we won't do.

In October 2008, amidst claims that one of its subsidiaries was knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, North Carolina poultry producer House of Raeford Farms initiated a systematic conversion of its workforce.

Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that nabbed 300 undocumented workers at a Columbia Farms processing plant in Columbia, S.C., a spooked House of Raeford quietly began replacing immigrants with native-born labor at all of its plants. Less than a year later, House of Raeford’s flagship production line in Raeford, N.C., had been transformed, going from more than 80 percent Latino to 70 percent African-American, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer. 

Under President George W. Bush, showy workplace raids like the one that befell Raeford were standard—if widely despised—fare. And though the Obama administration has committed itself to dialing down the practice, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has occasionally found herself the bearer of bad news to immigration activists who expected the raids to end entirely under her watch. 

For the most part, the workplace crackdowns themselves are unremarkable—gaudy, ad hoc things that mitigate America’s immigration problem the way a water balloon might a forest fire. Increasingly however, their immediate aftermaths—in which dozens of eager African-American job applicants line up to fill vacancies—call into question a familiar refrain from the nation’s more vocal immigration proponents: Illegal immigrants do work American citizens won’t. Even former Mexican President Vicente Fox fell victim to the hype, infamously declaring in 2006 that Mexican immigrants perform the jobs that “not even blacks want to do.”

Four years later, with national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it seems even less likely that immigrants are filling only those jobs that Americans won’t deign to do. Just ask Delonta Spriggs, a 24-year-old black man profiled in a November Washington Post piece on joblessness, who pleaded, “Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance.”

Spriggs has a difficult road ahead. In this recessed United States, competition for all work is dog-eat-dog. But that holds especially true for low-skilled jobs, jobs for which high school dropouts (like Spriggs) and reformed criminals (also like Spriggs) must now vie against nearly 12 million illegal immigrants, 80 percent of whom are from Latin America. What's more, it seems that, in many cases, the immigrants are winning. From 2007 to 2008, though Latino immigrants reported significant job losses, black unemployment, the worst in the nation, remained 3.5 points higher.

“I don't believe there are any jobs that Americans won't take, and that includes agricultural jobs,” says Carol Swain, professor of law at Vanderbilt University and author of Debating Immigration. “[Illegal immigration] hurts low-skilled, low-wage workers of all races, but blacks are harmed the most because they're disproportionately low-skilled.”

Despite President Fox’s assertion, of the Pew Hispanic Center’s top six occupational sectors for undocumented immigrants (farming, maintenance, construction, food service, production and material moving), all six employed hundreds of thousands of blacks in 2008. That year, almost 15 percent of meat-processing workers were black, as were more than 18 percent of janitors. And although blacks on the whole aren’t involved in agriculture at anywhere near the rates of illegal immigrants—a quarter of whom work in farming—about 14 percent of fruit and vegetable sorters are African-American.

For their efforts, African Americans were paid a median household income of $32,000 in 2007. In the same year, the median household income for illegal immigrants was $37,000.

Audrey Singer is a senior fellow specializing in race and immigration at the Brookings Institution. She agrees that blacks are disproportionately hindered by illegal immigration, but says that pay is a necessary variable to note when talking about work Americans will and won’t do. “There is evidence that shows people at the lower end of the skill spectrum are most affected by immigrant labor, particularly illegal immigrant labor,” she says. “But would Americans do the jobs illegal workers do at the wages that they’re paid? I don’t think so.”

Besides competing for work while simultaneously attempting to avoid drastically deflated paychecks and benefits, unemployed African- American job seekers must also frequently combat racial discrimination. In a 2006 research paper called “Discrimination in Low-Wage Labor Markets,” a team of Princeton sociologists discovered that, all else being equal, black applicants to low-wage jobs were 10 percent less likely than Latinos to receive positive responses from potential employers. Furthermore, employers were twice as likely to prefer white applicants to equally qualified blacks.

"To be blunt, a lot of employers would rather not deal with black American workers if they have the option of hiring a docile Hispanic immigrant instead,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Krikorian’s organization advocates a large-scale contraction of immigration to America, one of the main reasons being that low-skilled immigrants aren’t contributing to the U.S. labor force in a way that American citizens can’t. Nevertheless, Krikorian says that easily exploitable immigrants remain attractive to businesses looking to eliminate hassles. “[Illegal immigrants] are not going to demand better wages, and they're not going to ask for time off,” he adds. “And frankly, a lot of bosses are thinking, 'I don't want to deal with a young black male.'"

Most political analysts expect the debate over immigration reform to find new life in 2010, under a president who thoughtfully supports both increased border enforcement and the “recognition of immigrants’ humanity.” Wherever the discussion meanders, however—from amnesty on the left to expulsion on the right—from here on, it seems that anyone interested in speaking thoroughly on the matter can no longer do so without discussing its impact on black America.

This type of discussion has proved difficult in the past, however. “Many of the black scholars dance around this hard issue,” says Swain. “They do their research in such a way that it doesn’t address how immigration affects blacks. There’s a lot of pressure to say the politically correct thing—that immigrants aren’t hurting African Americans. Well, that’s not true.” 

Cord Jefferson is a regular contributor to The Root.

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