by Leah Durant
This week marks the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 41st Annual Legislative Conference, which was be held on September 23, 2011, in Washington, D.C. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas served as the host. The title of the conference was, “African-Americans: Joining the Leading Edge of the High Tech Boom!” and the conference was slated to touch upon a number of high tech subjects. Unfortunately, the conference would not address mass immigration, a policy that has had many negative repercussions for the black community.
The Congressional Black Caucus and its partners in the Obama administration are both guilty of pursuing immigration policies that worsen the country’s economic crisis. The Obama administration announced last month that it will adopt a case-by-case review process for the approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants currently facing possible expulsion from the U.S. The administration will concentrate its efforts on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal convictions and will essentially pardon what it deems as “low-priority cases.”
Jackson-Lee and her colleagues in the CBC have also supported a number of wrongheaded immigration policies in the last decade. In 2005, Jackson-Lee supported “Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act” (H.R. 2092), a bill that would have granted legalization to aliens who have resided in the U.S. for five years, who demonstrate knowledge of English, who have no criminal convictions, and who complete 40 hours of community service. This bill has been resurrected in subsequent years while maintaining strong electoral support from CBC members. The “Comprehensive Immigration Act” is just another egregious attempt to court a subset of voters while creating programs that reward unlawful behavior and further endanger American workers.
African-American workers are likely the demographic group most harmed by our failure to protect the borders and enact aggressive workplace penalties. The unemployment rate for African-Americans surged to 16.7 percent in the month of August, the highest rate since 1984. Unemployment rates in some inner-city regions topple an outstanding 40 percent.
A number of studies support the premise that massive immigration has influenced the employment prospects of African-Americans from a variety of occupational sectors. A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 40 percent of the decline in employment for low-skilled black men in recent decades was due to immigration. Another recent study by Harvard scholars George Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon Hanson entitled “Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities,” found that one third of the decline in the employment rate of black male-high-school drop-outs between 1980 and 2000 was due to immigration. The authors write, “As immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular skill group, we find a reduction in the wage of black workers in that group, a reduction in the employment rate, and a corresponding increase in the incarceration rate.”
Just last month a number of members of the CBC concluded a progressive listening tour in which they hosted town hall meetings in economically distressed urban areas throughout America. By avoiding the topic of immigration, these leaders hardly scratched the surface of the major causes behind African-American distress. The Congressional Black Caucus seems intent to skirt the issue in its current and future conferences. The CBC seriously neglects its leadership role if it continues to stick to talking points without seriously investigating and examining the ways in which immigration is hurting its primary constituency.
Leah Durant, Ms. Durant is Executive Director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, a non-profit organization seeking to educate the public on the unintended consequences of mass migration through research, advocacy and engagement. E-mails may be sent to Ldurant@pfirdc.org.