Black congressional leaders have been conspicuously silent during the immigration-reform debate, despite the likelihood that the Gang of Eight bill will have a profound adverse impact on black Americans. Consider:
It’s no secret that the current employment picture for black Americans is horrible. The black labor-force-participation rate of 61.2 percent approaches historic lows. Barely one in two adult black males has a full-time job. And given the stagnant economy, the picture isn’t going to get better any time soon.
Evidence adduced before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows that illegal immigration has wrought enormous damage to the wage and employment rates of low-skilled Americans regardless of race, but it has had a particularly devastating effect on black Americans. It’s estimated that 40 percent of the 18-point drop in black-employment rates over the last few decades is attributable to black workers being displaced by illegal immigrants. That’s hundreds of thousands of blacks thrown out of work. Not only that, but for low-skilled Americans who still have a job, the downward pressure illegal immigration exerts on compensation levels has led to significant reductions in wage rates.
Now the Gang of Eight bill grants amnesty to approximately 11 million illegal immigrants and creates an enormous magnet for future illegal immigration. On top of that, it’s estimated the bill will add up to 30 million legal immigrants over the next ten years. For some perspective, the total black population in the U.S. is 41 million, only 18.5 million of whom are in the civilian labor force.
Yet despite the fact that low-skilled blacks are being thrown under the bus in pursuit of an overarching political imperative, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are nowhere to be found — even though the organization is ostensibly constituted to address black interests.
Why don’t the members of the CBC speak up? Well, frankly, why should they? They know Democrats are going to get 90 percent of the black vote no matter what, so there’s scant political consequence to blacks being sacrificed in the interests of immigration reform. They also know that once elected, black congressional incumbents enjoy near lifetime job security. Since they’re guaranteed reelection, there’s little incentive to upset the Democratic leadership by opposing immigration reform.
Furthermore, black constituents not directly affected by competition from illegal immigrants somewhat reasonably assume the CBC is, in fact, looking out for black interests; and those who might be uneasy about the possible consequences of massive amnesty are disinclined to criticize a measure strongly supported by President Obama.
Over the years, black leaders from Frederick Douglass to Barbara Jordan have sounded alarms over the negative consequences to blacks of unrestrained immigration. Today, the president argues for a path — more accurately, a speedway — to citizenship and the attorney general insists that amnesty is a matter of civil rights. And the rest of the nation’s black leaders remain silent.