Illegal immigration hurts African Americans

New research by Carol Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University,  found that illegal immigration is hurting African Americans. And, according to Professor Swain, the Congressional Black Caucus is not addressing this issue.

In her essay in the newly released volume Debating Immigration, which Professor Swain edited, she said that African Americans are losing more jobs to illegal immigrants than to other racial or ethic groups, yet low income black workers don’t have political input in the debate.

“African Americans have been left devoid of a strong black voice in Congress on a topic that affects them deeply, given their high unemployment rates and historic struggle to get quality housing, health care, education and other goods and services,” writes Professor Swain.

Professor Swain based her comments on a study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, which found high unemployment rates among African Americans and Hispanics were partially attributed to the large number of low-skilled immigrants. She added that lax or non-existent immigration rules help businesses get away with hiring illegal immigrants rather than legal workers.

“The greatest competition occurs among people at the margins of society, a multi-racial group that includes poorly educated blacks, whites and Hispanics who compete against each other and against new immigrants for low-wage, low-skill jobs,” Professor Swain writes.

Professor Swain also found that cuts in governmental programs, like student loans, make it harder for low-income African American students to train for higher paying jobs. Some African Americans feel threatened by surges of immigrants to the United States, she notes, because of the immigrants’ potential impact on affirmative action.

According to Professor Swain, any parallel between immigrant issues and the black civil rights movement is weak.  “Most illegal immigrants have willingly left their homelands to seek their fortunes in a more prosperous nation. They were not brought in chains,” she said.

By not taking a stand on immigration, Professor Swain contends, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is ignoring the interests of their constituency. The CBC does not list immigration reform as a legislative priority, and Professor Swain found, only mentioned immigration in one press release out of almost a hundred posted on its web site. Some of the lawmakers in the CBC have large numbers of Hispanic constituents in their districts, which may lead to a conflict of interest, she said. Unless there are big changes within the CBC, Professor Swain believes there will not be official black representation on the immigration issue, which is hurting African Americans.

Debating Immigration, which was released by Cambridge University Press in April 2007, is a compilation of essays from some of the world’s leading experts on immigration. It is the first volume of its kind to examine the issues of race and religion as they apply to contemporary immigration issues.

– Amy Wolf, Vanderbilt University Public Affairs

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