Civil Rights Leaders to Obama: Amnesty Will Crush Black Employment

Two members of the eight-person U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the independent bipartisan agency tasked with "objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis" of civil rights issues, have warned President Barack Obama that granting illegal immigrants effective amnesty would “harm lower-skilled African-Americans by making it more difficult for them to obtain employment.”

In the five-page letter, Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and Vice Chair Abigail Thernstrom cite findings from several scholars demonstrating that illegal immigration disproportionately impacts the wage and employment outlook for African-American men. 

Research from UC San Diego economics professor Gordon Hanson, for example, found that from 1960 to 2000, immigration was responsible for 40% of the 18% plunge in black employment rates. The letter also refers to a February 2012 Census Bureau report that found that “50.9% of native-born blacks had not continued their education beyond high school,” placing them in stiffer competition with illegal immigrants vying for low-skilled labor jobs.

Kirsanow and Thernstrom’s letter to Obama details the bleak economic plight African-Americans are presently experiencing:

The country’s economic woes have disproportionately harmed African-Americans, especially those with little education. In 2011 24.6 percent of African-Americans without a high school diploma were unemployed, as were 15.5 percent of African-Americans with only a high school diploma. Two and half years into the economic recovery, African-Americans face particular difficulty obtaining employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally adjusted January 2013 unemployment rate for all black Americans – not just those with few skills – was 13.8 percent, nearly twice the white unemployment rate of 7.0 percent. The economy has a glut of low-skilled workers, not a shortage.

The civil rights leaders end the letter by urging the president not to exacerbate the economic struggles facing African-Americans by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. 

“Not only do illegal immigrants compete for jobs with African-Americans,” wrote Kirsanow and Thernstrom, “but that competition drives down wages for the jobs that are available... We respectfully submit that granting such legal status is not without substantial costs to American workers.”


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