by Faye Anderson
Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place.For most African Americans, Frederick Douglass was the last good Republican. However, today black Americans are aligned with Republicans again on at least one cause: opposition to illegal immigration.
- Frederick Douglass (1853)
A new report by the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC-Berkeley confirms that more than half of black workers are employed in low-wage, dead-end jobs. The report, “Job Quality and Black Workers: An Examination of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York,” looks at black employment rates. While the full report is embargoed until Labor Day, its findings include:
• 56.5 percent of black workers in the country earn low wages -- $12.87 per hour or less -- with the proportions of low-wage Black workers ranging from 47.3 percent in Chicago to 53.8 percent in Los Angeles.
• 43.9 percent of whites, 44.6 percent of Asians and 68.7 percent of Latinos work in low-wage jobs.
• 73.7 percent of blacks working in retail earn low wages.
Dr. Steven Pitts, the report’s author, says:
It’s no surprise that there’s a jobs crisis in the black community, but what this report shows is that we really can’t keep focusing exclusively on the issue of black unemployment. This is a two-dimensional problem that includes both the crisis of unemployment in the black community and the crisis of low-wage jobs.
That’s the bad news.
The even worse news is that researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found a link between mass immigration and black unemployment:
These data reveal a strong correlation between immigration and black wages, black employment rates, and black incarceration rates. 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. Moreover, these correlations are found in both national-level and state-level data.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of illegal immigrants flooded into New Orleans. At the same time, black Americans were not allowed to return to their homes in the Lower Ninth Ward prompting Mayor C. Ray Nagin to ask, “How do I ensure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?”
There are rising tensions between African Americans and illegal immigrants in the Crescent City and Chocolate City, and from Los Angeles to Newark, where earlier this week, Newark City Councilman Ronald C. Rice called for greater cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Earl Ofari Hutchison, a Los Angeles-based political analyst and the author of The Crisis in Black and Black, once scoffed at the notion that illegal immigration hurts black Americans. On National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” on April 3, 2006, he sang a different tune:
In Los Angeles, undeniably if you’re a young African American male and you’re looking for a job with low or marginal skills, maybe very limited education and perhaps a criminal record, it’s going to be very difficult for you to find a job at the low end in terms of manufacturing, car washes, restaurants and other retail establishments. Many of those jobs are gone.
Hutchison commented that the effects of job loss would eventually spread to black professionals and business owners:
With the march of time, it’s also going to have an economic impact on the black middle class.
So more than 150 years after Douglass’ prophetic observation, African Americans are again calling on the nation to choose black America. As Calvin Bonner, a black American community activist said in a passionate, eloquent speech on the Steps of City Hall during the LA March for American Rights:
The issue is, all black Americans must understand something: your way of life, your children are in jeopardy. Every aspect of our community is being threatened by this illegal invasion, and it’s wrong. We will not stand for it. Who do you think is suffering from this invasion? Us, we Americans! If you want to help somebody, help your American citizens first.
Indeed, over the years I’ve told anyone who would listen that the country is going to hell in a hand basket. To be sure, illegal immigration per se is not the root cause. Instead, my opposition to illegal immigration is fueled by its collateral consequences, which include disrespect for the rule of law, and overcrowded schools and hospital emergency rooms.
My concerns are encapsulated in Comptroller General David Walker’s recent remarks before the Chicago Federal Executive Board. Walker sounded the alarm that the country is headed in the wrong direction:
We also face a range of serious challenges when it comes to health care, education, energy, the environment, foreign policy, immigration, infrastructure, Iraq, and other issues. Current U.S. policy in all these key areas is on an unsustainable path over the long term. Tough choices must be made, and the sooner the better.Like most Americans, I’m fed up with the high cost of cheap immigrant labor. One choice that shouldn’t have been so tough to make is the enforcement of existing immigration laws. In holding employers accountable, the federal government will remove the magnet that attracts illegal aliens to sneak across the border or overstay their visa: a job. A job is also what keeps them from exercising their right to go home.
Putting aside the fiscal and social costs, I’m personally offended that illegal aliens sneak across the border (roughly 80 percent of illegal aliens are from Mexico or Latin American countries) and then have the temerity to compare their movement for “human rights” to black American citizens’ struggle for civil rights. To quote LA activist Calvin Bonner again:
It is wrong, it is wrong to call your movement “civil rights.” You have no right to jack our movement, not off the backs of blacks. You cannot do that. We are a people, we are a proud people, and we’re tired. We went through slavery; we went through Jim Crow; we went through the riots…Our movement is based on love, not hate…This is all I got. If I don’t get a job, I cannot go back to Mexico; I cannot go back to Africa…We love this country. We’re proud of America. We’re in this.
About the Author
Faye M. Anderson is a citizen journalist and public policy consultant. Her blog, Anderson@Large, was included in the first scholarly research examining the role of black bloggers and the blogosphere. Faye wrote and produced Counting on Democracy, a documentary about the 2000 election debacle, which aired on PBS and Link TV.