MLK Friend and Advisor: High Immigration that Displaces Black Workers Would ‘Outrage’ King

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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 16, 2017

After spending more than 30 years on the immigration beat, one mystery puzzles me more than the dozens of others I’ve analyzed and written about. Despite overwhelming evidence that the last three decades’ high immigration levels have disproportionately harmed blacks, African-Americans leaders and their constituents have not joined our call for restrictions.

Now, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, African-American leaders are furious at the man who has promised to bring factory jobs back to America where so many blacks once worked. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) lambasted Trump, called him “not a legitimate president,” and refuses to attend the inauguration. Other black and Hispanic leaders, whose constituents also have also lost jobs because of over-immigration, will join Lewis on the sidelines.

Ironically, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, unified in their anti-Trump mantra, have only good things to say about outgoing President Obama even though blacks and Hispanics have only, at best, treaded water during the last eight years. In 2007, the unemployment rate for blacks without a high-school diploma was 12 percent. Today, that rate has more than doubled.

King, Lewis: Civil Rights leaders with clashing immigration views.
 

Lewis prides himself on his civil rights record, and deservedly so. But Peter Kirsanow, U.S. Civil Rights Commission Vice-Chair and Commissioner, outlined his views about the effect of immigration on working blacks in his 2013 letter to President Barack Obama. Kirsanow made many important points that Lewis and his supporters should heed.

Written while Obama was trying to expand his deferred action programs to include the parents of illegal immigrant children, Kirsanow noted that black unemployment is twice the rate of whites, and that the economy has a glut of low-skilled workers, not a shortage as Obama and employers suggested. From Kirsanow’s letter: “Not only do illegal immigrants compete for jobs with African Americans, but that competition drives down wages for the jobs that are available.” These are hard, cold facts that Lewis and others can verify on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey websites.

Kirsanow concluded that high immigration, which Trump promises to reduce, makes it hard for African Americans to find job opportunities in entry-level positions.

In his book, “What Would Martin Say?” King’s biographer, close friend, speech writer and personal counsel Clarence B. Jones wrote that Martin would be outraged by the greater immorality of importing a slave class into this country especially one that has robbed so many African Americans of their hard-won livelihoods....”

Unfortunately on immigration, African-American governance continues tone deaf. Their refusal to publicly acknowledge that more immigration expands the labor force and reduces black Americans’ job opportunities has done the mainstream a huge disservice.

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