Black Leaders Urge Congress to Oppose ‘Irresponsible’ Gang of Eight Legislation

by Andrew Stiles

A coalition of black leaders is urging members of Congress to oppose the Gang of Eight’s immigration-reform bill (S.744), on the grounds that it would have a “disastrous” impact on African-American workers.  

The Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), a Washington, D.C.–based organization whose mission is “to further the economic and social interests of the black community,” has written an open letter to the Gang of Eight, the Congressional Black Caucus, and senators from states with the highest rates of black unemployment, signed by a dozen African-American leaders from a variety of political backgrounds. The group plans to hold a rally July 15 on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to “Say ‘No’ to Amnesty.”

“If passed, the proposed immigration bill will be costly for all Americans, but will harm American workers more than any other group,” the group writes. “If Congress fails to stop this irresponsible legislation, the United States will continue to see more and more blacks out of jobs and unable to support their families.”

The letter cites an array of data and research to support its claims. For example, the black unemployment rate is currently more than 13 percent, which is nearly double the national average. The rate among African Americans without a high school diploma — those most likely to compete with immigrants for jobs — is significantly higher. BALA points to a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, among others, which found that immigration accounted for 40 percent of the decline in employment rates for low-skilled black workers in recent decades.

“Many studies have shown that black Americans are disproportionately harmed by mass immigration and amnesty,” the group writes. “Despite the fact that these figures are readily available and have been reported by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, many lawmakers have chosen to do nothing, putting politics over the well-being of constituents.”

In April, members of the Civil Rights Commission warned that granting legal status to illegal immigrants “will likely disproportionately harm lower-skilled African-Americans by making it more difficult for them to obtain employment and depressing their wages when they do obtain employment.”

BALA echoed that sentiment, stating: “We are firmly convinced that such an expansion of the labor force during one of the most protracted periods of high unemployment in decades will result in suppressed wages for all Americans, but the effects on African Americans will be the most devastating. Given the current economic outlook, with declining wages and fewer opportunities for black workers, now is not the time to add millions more workers as S. 744 proposes.”

The letter was signed by a diverse coalition of leaders, including liberals such as Leah Durant, a former Justice Department immigration attorney and executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, and Dr. Frank Morris, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. 

“Now is not the time for Congress to increase competition for scarce jobs by adding millions more workers through legalization,” Morris said in a statement Monday. “Increasing immigration levels through amnesty and new visa programs, particularly at the low skilled level, will flood the labor market with millions more people, leading to higher unemployment, more poverty, and a lower standard of living for many in the black community.”

Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, president and founder of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), and Kevin Jackson, radio host and executive director of The Black Sphere, were among the conservative signatories.

“We implore each Member [of Congress] to fulfill his or her duty to the millions of Americans struggling to find work by opposing amnesty and supporting policies to reduce overall levels of legal and illegal immigration,” the letter concludes.

BALA is certainly a new voice in the chorus of opposition to the Gang of Eight bill, which is headed to the Senate floor as early as June 10. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) predicted the legislation would pass by the July 4 recess; he and his fellow Gang members are hoping to get 70 votes for the bill.

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