U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner: Illegal Immigration Disproportionately Harms Black Americans

Georgia Department of Labor services specialist Eric Frasier, left, helps a woman with a j
AP/David Goldman

Illegal and low-skilled immigration disproportionally harms the job prospects and wages of black Americans, Peter Kirsanow, a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, told a Senate panel Wednesday.

“Unequivocally, the wages and employment levels of black Americans are disproportionately adversely affect by illegal immigration. Particularly when it pertains to the effect on black males,” Kirsanow testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.

Kirsanow, also a partner with Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP noted that although the commission has been studying the issue of illegal immigration on black Americans and has been provided with overwhelming proof of the adverse effects, he was not testifying on behalf of the commission.

“The evidence shows that the reason for [the adverse impact] is actually pretty basic,” he said.

Black Americans, especially black males, are disproportionally concentrated in the low-skilled labor market and are disproportionately more likely to have no more than a high school diploma. Likewise illegal immigrants, disproportionately concentrated in the low skilled labor market and disproportionately more likely to have low levels of academic achievement and these two groups compete with each other in the low skilled labor market.

He continued, “The competition is often most fierce in those industries in which blacks have traditionally, historically had high concentrations of employment such as hospitality, service, construction, agriculture, and blacks very often lose out in this competition to illegal immigrants.”

According to Kirsanow the reason black Americans and other low skilled American workers lose out is largely due to employer’s ability to offer lower wages to illegal workers.

“It’s not because low skilled American workers, regardless of race, are unwilling to perform such jobs, it is that they are unwilling to do such jobs at the cut-rate wages and sometime sub-standard working conditions tendered to illegal immigrants,” Kirsanow said, noting illegal immigrants are unlikely to complaint to government agencies about those poor working conditions.

The negative affects of these phenomena, he said, are most prevalent in metropolitan areas and during times like the current economic stagnation.

“Since the beginning of the 2008 recession there has been an increase of 2 million working-aged blacks in the population,” he said. “However, during the same period of time, the number of blacks currently in the workforce was also 2 million less, so that there has been no net increase in the number of employed blacks — despite a substantial increase in the black population. What is curious about that though, is that in the same period of time, 4.4 million more foreign-born worked were employed in the United States.”

Kirsanow argued that in addition to the negative economic prospects, the displacement causes negative societal problems as well with lower employment rates leading to more imprisonment and reduced family formation.


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