Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told Breitbart News that Attorney General Eric Holder’s claims that amnesty for illegal immigrants is a civil rights issue “profoundly ahistorical.”
“If you take a look at the basis of the civil rights movement, it was to have blacks treated in all respects the same as whites or everybody else,” Kirsanow (pictured) said in a phone interview. “What amnesty is doing is setting aside a special class of individuals who are going to put forward and treated more favorably than others. In other words, they’ve already broken the law and are being given amnesty.
“In terms of immigration policy… it would severely affect the rights of blacks generally and all low-income Americans. What it is going to do is displace those individuals from the labor market.”
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Kirsanow said, has held extensive hearings in recent years detailing how amnesty would economically impact American workers, especially the black community.
“We had a hearing before the Civil Rights Commission on the effects of illegal immigration on black employment levels, both wage levels and unemployment rates,” Kirsanow said. “What we had were a number of experts from just about every sphere you can think of: business, academia and immigration experts in general. They spanned the ideological spectrum. We had individuals from the far left, individuals in the middle, individuals on the right.
“They disagreed in some respects about certain policy prescriptions but they were unanimous in their conclusion, backed by copious amounts of data,” he recalled, “that illegal immigration had a deleterious effect on the wage and employment levels of black Americans. And it’s not a small effect. It’s a clearly sizable effect.”
Kirsanow and some of his fellow U.S. Commission on Civil Rights members have pushed for members of Congress and key political figures in the national immigration debate like President Barack Obama himself to address these issues, but they have ignored the calls thus far.
“What’s interesting is those who have described themselves as the champions of civil rights are doing enormous damage to the ranks of black Americans by supporting and shepherding through comprehensive immigration reform that does nothing to control the borders, that grants amnesty and is going to create a legal population of individuals who are going to undercut the employment and wage prospects for low income Americans, generally, and specifically black Americans and more specifically black males,” he asserted.
Kirsanow questions who the lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on both sides of the political aisle are really representing, given that they have not substantively discussed the issue in their legislative deliberations. “I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee back in April on immigration reform on the same thing that we’re talking about right now,” he stated. “What was amazing is the number of senators who were either cavalier about it or they gave grudging acknowledgment to the fact that ‘yeah, there’s a possibility that there might be some dislocation to American workers as a result of illegal immigration’ and then just kind of moved on.
“The question I have is: Who do they represent? They are United States Senators. They represent Americans, presumably. Yet, what they’re proposing is they’re going to have a decided negative effect on Americans. What reason? What? Who do they represent? Do they represent illegal immigrants? Or do they represent lawful Americans? And that’s a question that needs to be posed to them.”
Kirsanow was originally one of only three witnesses who were going to be called to testify on the immigration situation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He; GOP establishment figure Doug Holtz-Eakin of American Action Forum (AAF), a group advocating in favor of amnesty; and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were going to be the only ones who testified were it not for public outcry about the rushed process.
Originally, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Senate Democratic Party leadership were not even going to call any hearings. “On a matter this large, it is an insult to the American people that only three people were going to testify regardless of how knowledgeable they may be about the subject matter,” Kirsanow said. “This is such a complex matter that they needed perspectives from so many different places. What we had was a bill that was gigantic. It was almost the size of Obamacare and yet it was released barely 36 hours before our testimony.
“In other words, we were testifying in an information vacuum on a momentous piece of legislation. Only after there was a bit of hue and cry did Senate leadership understand that they needed to open up the testimony to more witnesses.”
Kirsanow and others members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission have written letters on this matter to President Obama and to Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), among other lawmakers, and they have received no response. Similarly, advocates opposed to amnesty like Leah Durant have written letters to members like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, raising these same concerns–which have gone ignored, as well.
Kirsanow said that while there are likely a number of reasons why members of the Congressional Black Caucus have ignored this real threat to their constituents, he thinks the most prevailing is that President Barack Obama, America’s first black president, is pushing the policy so they have no ability to stand up to him politically.
“I have asked them why they are not standing up for the needs of their constituents,” Kirsanow said. “We’ve sent these letters to Marcia Fudge. We’ve sent them to members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Radio silence. Complete radio silence.”
“I wish reporters asked members of the Congressional Black Caucus what the heck they’re thinking,” he said. “They’ve not been challenged on this. One of the dynamics at play is the fact that we have the first black president who is in support of this. If he is in support of it, a lot of black Americans will reasonably presume that he is looking out for their best interests. So, the Congressional Black Caucus can use that as cover.
“If President Obama supports amnesty, and therefore 90 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus’ constituents will believe it’s in their best interests, those members of the Congressional Black Caucus are unlikely to be questioned by their constituents about whether it’s a good idea on that because they will have believed ‘Barack Obama looks out for my interests, it must be a good idea.'”
Kirsanow said the president is not sticking up for the black community and argued it might be because of special interests and potential future voter pools. “You know that old line, when you want to figure out why something is being done, follow the money? Well, in politics, you not only follow the money, but you follow the votes or potential votes,” he explained. “I think what a lot of sides see, both on the Republican side and the Democratic side, is this vast untapped pool of votes that they expect are going to materialize as a result of amnesty.
“Republicans don’t want to be seen as being anti-Hispanic, Democrats see this as a giant new constituency group and, so, what you’ve got I think, and I don’t know if this pertains to President Obama, but you’ve got a political class looking out for their interests. ‘I want more votes,’ as opposed to current interests of their constituents.
“I don’t necessarily want to ascribe that motive to them, but it’s as plausible and probably more rationale than anything else because I can’t figure out why it is representatives of the United States of America are doing something that is harmful to their constituents.”
While Kirsanow argues members of the political class in the black community like members of Congress and leaders of black groups like the NAACP and others do not stick up for their rank and file on this issue, he said he does get the impression many ordinary black citizens are aware of this threat to their economic well-being.
“A lot of folks do,” Kirsanow, who lives in inner-city Cleveland and used to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), said. “I was in Washington, D.C., and I also appear of black radio shows from time to time, and other radio shows, and what you get without question and what you used to get for quite some time was whenever the issue of illegal immigration came up, black callers were outraged because they feel the effects,” he declared.
“They see it with their own eyes. You get calls from people who have been displaced by illegal immigrants, people who can’t find jobs because they can’t compete against low wages offered to illegal immigrants and it’s fairly vigorous.”