The Corner

How Obama Betrayed Black Workers Last Night

President Obama last night removed any remaining doubt that he shares Jonathan Gruber’s assessment of the American voter. The group toward whom he’s shown the greatest contempt, however, is low-skilled American workers, particularly blacks.

The president’s edict purporting to grant legal status to up to 5 million illegal aliens will have a devastating effect on the wage and employment levels of all low-skilled American workers, but the competition from (formerly) illegal aliens will be most acute in industries in which blacks traditionally have been highly concentrated — including, but not limited to, construction, hospitality, and service.

The effect of illegal immigration on American wages and employment is now well-established. Hearings before the U.S.Commisssion on Civil Rights, for example, adduced copious evidence of the profound damage done to black wage and employment levels by illegal immigration. Competition from immigration accounts for approximately 40 percent of the 18 percentage point decline in black employment in recent years. That’s nearly a million jobs lost by blacks to immigrants.

Moreover, numerous studies unequivocally show that illegal immigration depresses wage rates. In the leisure and hospitality industries alone, the wage suppression due to illegal immigration has decreased annual wage rates by $1,500.

The fact that employers will, presumably, now have to pay (formerly) illegal aliens at lawful wages rates won’t reduce the negative impact of illegal immigration on black workers because the newly “legal” immigrants will still be paid a low wage, and the president’s edict is a green light to millions more illegal aliens to come to America at a time when our country has a historic surplus of low-skilled labor.

Indeed, the edict could hardly come at a worse time for for black workers whose labor-participation rate is an abysmal 61.4 percent. Black teen unemployment is 32.6 percent. The black employment-population ratio is an appalling 54.7 percent. The last thing black workers need right now is more competition from illegal aliens.

These facts are well-known to the president and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who’ve received copies of the Civil Rights Commission’s report as well as additional data in the numerous letters they’ve received from me on this topic. Unfortunately for black workers who, perhaps not unreasonably, believe that a black president and  members of a Congressional Black Caucus wouldn’t take or support any actions that would throw huge numbers of blacks out of work, the interests of black workers are manifestly secondary to political imperative.

The most loyal constituency of the Democratic party is being thrown under the bus for the shining  possibility of an even larger voting bloc. And the members of the CBC cheer.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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