Tuesday, February 12, 2013
No sooner did Barack Obama and a group of senators separately outline proposals to revamp the nation’s immigration system than the phone lines on several African-American-oriented talk radio shows heated up with callers blasting the plan
“Amnesty,” complained Frankie from Maryland recently on the nationally syndicated “Keeping it Real with Al Sharpton.” A political payback to Hispanic voters that does little or nothing for African-Americans, reasoned Sam from Milwaukee on Wisconsin’s 1290 WMCS AM’s “Earl Ingram Show.” “Our issues are not being highlighted and pushed, and things like gay marriage and (immigration) are being pushed to the forefront,” the caller said. “Hispanics are effectively organized. For us not to be organized and for us not to hold our leadership accountable is disheartening.” Although the black civil rights establishment, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the Urban League and Sharpton, squarely back Obama’s desire to tackle immigration, his call has reignited complaints within the African-American community that he is addressing the specific needs of almost all major voting blocs – Hispanics, women, gays – except for the African-Americans who gave him 93% of their vote. Obama is expected to address the immigration issue again in his State of the Union address and when he travels to Asheville, North Carolina, and visits Chicago and suburban Atlanta to sell his second-term agenda. “There (are) clearly different views in the African-American community around immigration,” Sharpton said on his radio show. “Some have said they’re (illegal immigrants) taking our jobs, they dilute our strength. Others have said we’ve got to have rights for everybody or we don’t have it for anybody, and this is not just a Latino issue because immigration laws cover the Caribbean, cover Africans, cover South Americans.” Some angst over Obama addressing immigration and other issues so soon in his second term has boiled over into public criticism of the nation’s first African-American president by many African-Americans, from the grassroots to the political levels. Bernard Anderson, an Obama supporter and a former assistant labor secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency, recently told an African-American economic summit at Washington’s Howard University that African-Americans should no longer give Obama “a pass” on dealing with issues that directly impact their community. “He is not going to run again for anything. He does not deserve a pass anymore,” Anderson said. “Let him not only find his voice but summon his courage and use his political capital to address racial inequality. He owes that to the African-American.” Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are quietly seething because Obama hasn’t met with the 42-member group since May 13, 2011. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, vented. He said that the black caucus sent the White House the names of 61 potential candidates for positions in a second-term administration that already is coming under fire for being heavy on white males. “Not one of that 61 was selected – not one,” Hastings said at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida conference. Some African-Americans view Obama’s immigration drive as an overture to Hispanics who helped power his re-election in November with 71% of their vote. The African-American unemployment rate is at 13.8%, according to recently released government figures, nearly twice the 7% jobless rate for whites. The nation’s overall unemployment rate is 7.9%. For Hispanics, the rate is 9.7%. A 2009 study by George Borjas of Harvard University, Jeffrey Grogger of the University of Chicago and George Hanson of the University of California, San Diego, looked at 1960-2000 Census data and found that as immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular area, wages of African-American workers in that area fell, the employment rate declined and the incarceration rate rose. “Our analysis suggests that a 10% immigration-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 2.5%, lowered the employment rate of black men by 5.9 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by 1.3 percentage points,” the professors wrote in the study. A Pew Research poll released in January 2013 found that 56% of African-Americans feel that there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between immigrants and people born in the United States. A different Pew Hispanic poll found that while all groups of workers have seen gains in employment, Hispanics and Asians have experienced a faster rate of growth than African-Americans and whites. Hispanic employment increased 6.5% between 2009 and 2011, compared with a 2.2% increase for African Americans and just 1.1% for whites.