Evaluating the Damage: Immigration’s Impact on Black Americans

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 16: A construction laborer works on the site of a new residential bu
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For decades, researchers and immigration experts alike have warned lawmakers and administrations of the negative impact immigration, both legal and illegal, has on the African-American community.

Two studies from 2008 reviewed in great detail and length just how much black Americans have been kept down economically by a U.S. immigration system that admits more than 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants a year, with no end in sight.

Cornell University’s Vernon Briggs Jr. wrote in his testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights of how, in 2004, mass immigration to the U.S. had led to black Americans being replaced as the largest minority group in the country, being overtaken by Hispanic-Americans.

“Although black Americans were 13.5 percent of the nation’s native-born population, they were only 7.8 percent of the foreign-born population in 2000,” Briggs noted. “Hispanics, on the other hand, were only 8.5 percent of the native-born population while being 45.2 percent of the foreign-born population.”

In his 2008 testimony, Briggs stated that there was “little doubt that there is significant” impact on African-American workers who generally compete for the same U.S. jobs that illegal aliens and legal immigrants are often looking to get.

Briggs says that this immigration impact makes poor and working-class African-Americans the “major loser” in the workforce.

Briggs notes:

Given the inordinately high unemployment rates for low skilled black workers (the highest for all racial and ethnic groups for whom data is collected), it is obvious that the major loser in this competition are low skilled black workers. This is not surprising, since if employers have an opportunity to hire illegal immigrant workers, they will always give them preference over legal workers of any race or ethnic background. This is because illegal immigrant workers view low skilled jobs in the American economy as being highly preferable to the job opportunities in their homelands that they have left. [Emphasis added]

Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research Steven Camarota’s 2008 testimony before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found a similar impact of immigration on specifically poor and working-class African-American men.

Camarota notes the low education level of African-American men:

Compared to white men, a much larger share of native-born black men have relatively little education. About six out of 10 adult black men have only a high school degree or failed to graduate high school, compared to about four out of 10 white men [Emphasis added]

Due to this, African-American men, according to Camarota, have been put in direct competition for American jobs against illegal and legal immigrants.

In my own research I have found that blacks are more likely to be in competition with immigrants than are whites. A 1995 study by Augustine Kposowa concluded that, “non-whites appear to lose jobs to immigrants and their earnings are depressed by immigrants.” A 1998 study of the New York area by Howell and Mueller found that a 10-percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of an occupation reduced wages of black men about five percentage points. Given the large immigrant share of the occupations they studied, this implies a significant impact on native-born blacks. [Emphasis added]

Camarota’s testimony also mentioned how some research has even concluded that employers prefer Hispanic and Asian illegal and legal immigrants over black Americans. Despite constant claims of labor shortages by the big business lobby and corporate interests, Camarota’s research found that the lack of wage growth for low-skilled American jobs, and even a decline in wages, almost certainly proves that there is not a shortage of low-skilled workers, in fact, quite the opposite.

Both Briggs and Camarota’s research has suggested that lower levels of legal immigration and barring employers from being allowed to hire illegal aliens over American citizens would not only grow the wages of working- and middle-class people, but it would decrease the number of unemployed black Americans.

In 1993, Civil Rights icon and Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to chair the Commission on Immigration Reform.

Ultimately, Jordan’s commission discovered that mass immigration to the U.S. hurt poor, working-class and lower-tier middle-class Americans the most, as it unfairly put them in competition with a never-ending flow of cheaper, foreign workers.

“Immigration imposes mutual obligations,” Jordan wrote in a piece for the New York Times in 1995, titled “The Americanization Ideal.”

“Those who choose to come here must embrace the common core of American civic culture. We must assist them in learning our common language: American English,” Jordan continued. “We must renew civic education in the teaching of American history for all Americans. We must vigorously enforce the laws against hate crimes and discrimination. We must remind ourselves, as we illustrate for newcomers, what makes us America.”

Jordan’s recommendations included slashing legal immigration levels in half — a plan that President Donald Trump has desperately tried to enact in his first term in office but failed to do so because of the lack of support from the Republican establishment — as well as enacting mandatory E-Verify, which prevents employers from hiring illegal aliens over Americans.

Like Trump’s plan to implement a merit-based legal immigration system, the Jordan commission also recommended that Congress prioritize skilled, English-proficient immigrants over low-skilled, non-English speaking immigrants, in order to give relief to America’s working and middle class.

More than 20 years later, the Jordan commission’s recommendations to reduce the burdens of immigration have yet to be implemented, though the agenda continues to be pushed by the Trump administration.

Every year, the U.S. admits more than 1.5 million foreign nationals to the country, with the vast majority deriving from family-based chain migration, where naturalized citizens are allowed to bring their extended family members to the country. In 2016, the legal and illegal immigrant population reached a record high of 44 million. By 2023, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that the legal and illegal immigrant population of the U.S. will make up nearly 15 percent of the entire U.S. population.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.