African-Americans and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

August 19, 2010 

Despite all the divisive rhetoric illegal immigrants are not for the most part taking away jobs from African Americans. However, illegal immigration is having a negative impact on low and unskilled wages upon which many African Americans rely, and all the more reason why we should support comprehensive immigration reform allowing a path to citizenship also known as amnesty.

There is a prevailing belief that only illegal aliens will do that which Americans will not. After U.S. Immigration and Customs agents raided a number of chicken processing plants in the Carolinas and under criminal indictment one plant went from 80 percent Latino to 70 percent African-American. As Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies stated, “[A] lot of employers would rather not deal with black American workers if they have the option of hiring a docile Hispanic immigrant instead. [Illegal immigrants] are not going to demand better wages or time off. And frankly, a lot of bosses are thinking, I don’t want to deal with a young black male.” Unscrupulous employers prefer undocumented workers because they’re less likely to question working conditions for fear of losing their jobs or being deported.

Low wages make unskilled jobs unattractive to young black men. Wages are kept low because of illegal immigrtion and undermine the efforts of organized labor. As workers want more we should want more for them, particularly young black men, more than undesirable vocations. In the Underground Labor is Rising to the Surface Bear Stearns reports the true cost of illegal immigration:

• The illegal alien population of the U.S. is about 20 million – roughly the population of New York State.
• Between 4 and 6 million jobs have shifted to the underground economy since 1990. These are not “jobs Americans won’t do, but rather jobs Americans used to do.
• On the revenue side, the United States may be foregoing $35 billion a year in income tax collections because of the number of jobs that are now off the books.
• There are approximately 5 million illegal workers who are collecting wages on a cash basis and are avoiding both income and FICA taxes.
• The United States is hooked on cheap, illegal workers and is deferring the costs of providing public services to these quasi-Americans.

Deporting 20 million residents is unreasonable and unlikely. It is not unreasonable to expect our schools to increase the graduation rates for young black men and to equip them with the adequate skills and knowledge required of jobs with upward mobility. But education is not a panacea; at every education level the unemployment rate for blacks exceeds that of whites. The disparities among the college-educated and other evidence strongly suggest that even if the black educational attainment distribution was exactly the same as the white distribution, blacks would still have a higher unemployment rate than whites. Blacks and illegal immigrants are not competing for the same jobs. Without a renewed commitment to anti-discrimination in employment and job creation in black communities, high rates of black joblessness will likely persist.


One Response to “African-Americans and Comprehensive Immigration Reform”
  1. deeceevoice says:

    It seems to me that you contradict yourself. In one sentence, you state, “…illegal immigration is having a negative impact on low and unskilled wages upon which many African Americans rely….” In another, “Blacks and illegal immigrants are not competing for the same jobs.” The truthiness of the second statement — a mantra commonly heard from the lips of those who support immigration reform — is contradicted by the veracity of the first.

    The fact of the matter is undocumented workers are taking jobs from unskilled Black workers. You are correct when you state, “These are not ‘jobs Americans won’t do,[‘] but rather jobs Americans used to do.” Black former migrant farm laborers; hotel maids and bellhops; doormen, wait and bus staff; short-order cooks; parking lot attendants; office cleaners; unskilled construction and building trade workers; childcare workers; house cleaners and cooks; meat and poultry processing plant workers — and on and on no longer can find work. They’ve been effectively frozen out of these jobs by undocumented, largely Latino workers who will work for less pay and without complaint for fear of reprisals.

    Because the fact is the economy overall benefits from undocumented workers, and because the Black underclass wields little political power, it is unlikely there exists enough political will to stanch the flow of illegals crossing the southern border of the U.S. The solution is adult education and job re/training to enable displaced workers to reestablish themselves in the workforce, in growth fields with higher earning potential.

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