Immigration Reform: Chance for Blacks to Form Political Coalitions With Other People of Color

Why Blacks Should Support Immigration     

— because it is about their political survival.

There are 44 million blacks and 52 million Hispanics. Although white Hispanics are the most visible, many immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Peru and other Latin countries self identify as black and will contribute to the “browning” of America. For African Americans, it’s an opportunity to create political coalitions with other people of color.

Facing a high unemployment rate, most African Americans falsely believe that the absence of foreigners who “take jobs” will benefit them in the current labor market. They may be unaware that the black unemployment rate since 1970 has always been twice that of their white counterparts. Very often African Americans have adopted the attitudes of early-19th-century whites who wanted to send Africans back to Africa.

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin and its aftermath is perhaps one of the lowest points for the black community since the civil rights movement. During that era, it was necessary to find commonality with people of different races and ethnicities who powered that social movement.

As Dr. King stated in his Letter from Birmingham Jail (in part):  
“Migrants who have entered the country without inspection or have overstayed their visas lack lawful immigration status. Because of legal changes over the past decade, they often have no way to normalize their status.[[23]] As long as the law remains unchanged, these individuals will be forced to live in the shadows of society — illegally.”

This is a “wedge” issue that comes up pitting blacks against browns. But a comprehensive analysis of Census data from hundreds of U.S. metropolitan areas indicate that immigration from Latin America improves wages and job opportunities for African Americans. This analysis shows, in fact, that Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market. Cities with greater immigration from Latin America experience higher wages for African Americans, lower shares of African Americans in poverty and lower African American unemployment.

As President Obama prepares to address the nation on his Deferred Action consider his message and actions.

(Sources: The Root, Media Matters for America, American Immigration Council)