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Friday, April 14, 2006

Our enemies are the same

This is from MyDD

An African-American View on the Immigration Debate

Over the next few months we're going to try and bring in guest-bloggers that talk about areas of politics we know little about. Tom will be guest-posting at MyDD for a week or so on African-American politics. Here's his bio: Tom Grayman is a pollster, the publisher of the political website The Intelligence Squad, and is author of the book Ghosts of Florida: Making Elections Fair for Blacks.

So the GOP has decided to drop the felonization of undocumented immigrants from its immigration reform idea stew. I take that as a sign of two things:

1. The GOP is in disarray.
2. Taking to the streets can still make a difference.

If only African-Americans still believed in the power of protest to the same extent (I'll address that matter in another post).

What I'd like to do here and now is not so much discuss the GOP's retreat, as to bring an African-American perspective into the broader immigration debate.

Research has strongly suggested that African-Americans - specifically the too-large class of under-skilled African-Americans - suffer from illegal immigration to a highly disproportionate degree. If one of the biggest problems with illegal immigration is that it lowers wages for unskilled work - and even skilled labor - to a level below what the American standard of living requires, it should be blacks (as well as Puerto Ricans and Latino permanent US residents) who are crying out the loudest against illegal immigrants.

The fact of the matter is that large majorities of African-Americans do want illegal immigration curtailed. They are concerned about their disappearance from the skilled trades - jobs that, contrary to the popular mantra, they do want to do. And yet national leadership in the African-American community - from the congress to the civil rights community - doesn't even come close to reflecting this stance on the issue.

A century ago, such prominent black thinkers as Fredrick Douglas, WEB DuBois, and A. Phillip Randolph were vehemently against mass immigration, for the same above-mentioned reason.

More recently, the NAACP has called for Congress to put "enforcement" on the back burner in favor of family unification, paths to citizenship, and improved workers' rights. The National Urban League, which focuses on economic empowerment for African-Americans, has apparently had nothing to say recently on the issue. The website of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and umbrella organization of 180 civil rights groups, links only to immigrant-supportive articles and columns on the topic. The Congressional Black Caucus does not appear to have had anything to say on the matter since Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) led a small group of black legislators in proposing a legalization bill a couple of years ago.

Conservatives - particularly white conservatives - often cite the current incongruity between black attitudes and black leadership actions on this issue as a sign that the national African-American leadership is "out of touch" with its own constituency.

They are wrong. Even though blacks -- particularly lower-income blacks -- may not be comfortable with seemingly unchecked immigration, they're even less comfortable with the crew agitating most vocally against it. You will not see blacks kickin' it down on the border with the Minute Men, or in the streets outside Tom Tancredo's office showing their support. There's one simple reason, and it is not that these activists are Republican.

It's that the current anti-immigration movement reeks of racism.

Blacks think back a century, to a time when white Europeans were able to immigrate to the US seemly without restriction to take advatage of the opportunities to make better lives for their families. Then they look at masses of brown and black immigrants being blocked as they try to enter from the south, or villified as they come from the East, and wonder: why now is unbridled immigration so unacceptable to the US government? And: why does the government seem to think that terrorists and drugs can't cross the Canadian border?

What it comes down to is that blacks refuse to be economic gladiators, fighting against brown folks for the financial benefit of an overwhelmingly white business and political class of spectators. Instead, we'd rather see an inclusive policy that focuses more on raising and ENFORCING the minimum wage,and protecting ALL workers' rights, thereby limiting the incentive for employers to undercut American job-seekers.

Our leadership, to the extent is has addressed the issue, reflects that. If only they were more vocal about it...
I see the people around Tancredo and I know they may not wear sheets, but they don't like black people much more than Mexicans.

We live with immigration every day, we marry immigrants, they own the stores where we live. They aren't the other to most black people.

But even if they were, we know what racism sounds like and what it feels like, and listening to Jack Cafferty and Lou Dobbs, I knew what I was hearing.

Earlier, people were saying it was about jobs and not race, and people would do that work. And I called bullshit then and now. Why? Because black people are not going to fight for the dirtiest, least paid jobs. They want the same jobs whites expect to get. Union, skilled labor and office work.

A few years ago, the Parks Department hired interns. All with the same educational backgrounds. Guess who worked in the summer heat, and who worked in the office. Guess who was then hired for staff jobs. Eventually, there was a lawsuit in federal court over this.

We know the people who say this have no higher expectations for us, or immigrants. They want a permanent underclass and they want us to fight to join it. When I heard all those comments about the flags and the need to stay in class, well, I've heard that crap before and I knew what it was and why it was said.

The Tancredos of the world want one thing, and it isn't to share oportunity with anyone, especially black and brown people.

posted by Steve @ 12:07:00 AM

12:07:00 AM

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