The Black American Leadership Conference this morning issued an open letter calling on members of Congress to oppose the current immigration proposal, arguing increased competition for low-skill jobs would hurt Americans, particularly black Americans, struggling to find work.
“Given the fact that more than 13% of all blacks are unemployed – nearly double that of the national average, it is our position that each Member of Congress must consider the disastrous effects that Senate Bill 744 would have on low skill workers of all races, while paying particular attention to the potential harm to African Americans,” reads the open letter.
The current proposal, supported by the bipartisan Gang of Eight in the U.S. Senate, includes provisional legal status and potential pathways to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the United States without authorization.
The letter makes reference to academic studies at several universities, from Harvard to Cornell, linking increases in immigration to competition for low-skill jobs, as well as declining wages and rising unemployment.
“Many blacks compete with immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, for low skilled jobs due to skill level and geography, and there are simply not enough of these jobs to go around,” reads the letter. “Consider the fact that nearly 51% of African Americans do not have a higher education.”
The letter argues: “Yet, the fact remains that the proposed immigration bill will nearly double legal immigration levels and provide instant work authorization to over 11 million illegal immigrants. We are firmly convinced that such an expansion of the labor force during one of the most protracted periods of high unemployment in decades will result in suppressed wages for all Americans, but the effects on African Americans will be the most devastating.”
For May, the unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
That’s below the national rate of 7.5 percent. But the U.S Department of Labor reported that the black unemployment rate sat at 13.2 percent, or nearly double 6.7 white unemployment rate, in April.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, has been outspoken in his opposition to the Gang of Eight reforms. “I greatly appreciate receiving this letter and share these concerns,” Sessions said Monday afternoon. “The Senate immigration bill will be bad for African-American workers, and all American workers.”
“This bill serves the special interests at the expense of poor and middle class Americans – both immigrant and native born,” said Sessions in an emailed release. “In this time of low wages and high unemployment there is no justification for such large increases in the supply of foreign labor.”
Sessions has argued that the reforms would burden public welfare roles and that provisions for bringing in family members and clearing immigration backlogs and expanding guest worker programs could lead to citizenship or lawful status for up to 30 million immigrants over the next 10 years.
Sessions has written his own open letter to President Obama, contending the administration has failed to listen to immigration enforcement officers.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, last month had voiced the same argument that the current immigration proposal “undermines millions of African American workers.”
According to the group’s press release, members of the Black American Leadership Alliance include:
Frank Morris, Former Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Board Member, Progressives for Immigration Reform; Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, President and Founder of BOND (The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny); Bishop Felton Smith, Prelate of the Tennessee Eastern First Jurisdiction and Senior Pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Church of God in Christ in Nashville, TN; Charles Butler, Veteran Chicago area Talk Show Host of The Take with Charles Butler; Leah V. Durant, Former US DOJ Immigration Attorney and Executive Director, Progressives for Immigration Reform; T. W. Fair, President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami; Vernon Robinson, Former Council Member, Winston-Salem, NC and former candidate for US Congressional Office; Kevin Jackson, Radio Host and Executive Director, The Black Sphere; Leo Alexander, Broadcaster, Writer and Political Commentator, Washington, DC; Kevin Martin Author, Writer and Political Commentator.
The Gang of Eight members in the Senate include four Democrats and four Republicans:
Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, Michael Bennett, D-Col., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain. R-Ariz., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.