Dreams Denied

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

January 17, 2014

Bill Would Disproportionately Harm Unemployed Black, Hispanic Americans

In observance of today's national celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, Californians for Population Stabilization launched a television ad which emphasizes that the current Senate and House immigration bills undermine King’s dream.

On August 28, 1963, “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” one of history’s largest civil rights demonstrations, attracted about 250,000 onlookers who heard Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The march focused on jobs, as well as freedom and civil rights.

Other speakers that August day included the “Big Six” civil-rights leaders, labor leader Walter Reuther and entertainer Josephine Baker who introduced Rosa Parks. Marchers called for not just more jobs but also “a national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living.” Now, 50 years later, Americans find themselves in a country in which there has been no real wage increase in 40 years.

King’s speech came before the Immigration Act of 1965 and the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, two laws that changed America. In Dr. King’s era, there were no such things as the DREAM Act, deferred action, instate tuition for illegal immigrants or aliens admitted to the California bar. Since Dr. King lived when immigration was mostly legal, it’s improbable that he would have endorsed today’s uncontrolled illegal immigration, especially knowing that it would mean job loss for black and Hispanic Americans.

To Dr. King, unemployment is a miscarriage of justice. In one of his last sermons, King said: “If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.”

The amnesty bill that Congress is eager to pass would make employment opportunities harder for all Americans, but disproportionately so for blacks and Hispanics. Dr. King would disapprove of federal legislation that gives amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants and would admit 30 million more legal immigrants at a time when the black and Hispanic unemployment rates are 20 and 17 percent, respectively.

From the 1960s to today, the black unemployment rate has been about 2 to 2.5 times higher than the white unemployment rate. Today’s 20 percent black and Hispanic unemployment rates are nearly three times as high as the white rate and higher than the average annual 13.1 percent during the 1929-1931 Great Depression. [“The Unfinished March,” by Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute, June 18, 2013]

The CAPS TV spot ends by asking why Congress is pushing so hard for legislation that would deny millions of Americans the chance to achieve Dr. King’s dream.

On January 23, three days after the nation honors Dr. King, House leadership will meet at a closed-door session in West Virginia to plot ways to pass an immigration bill that has little national support and defies the prosperity goals outlined in the “March for Jobs and Freedom.” [“GOP Leader Reveals Strategy for Immigration Bill Push,” by Neil Munro, Daily Caller, January 13, 2014]

Tell Congress to remember King’s legacy. We need full employment, and amnesty is no way to achieve it.

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