Congressional Black Caucus Ignores Wage Gap Solutions

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday came and went, as it always does, without a peep from the Congressional Black Caucus about how the influential U.S. representatives could most help African-Americans. If the powerful Caucus, 58 members strong, would demand an immigration pause, black Americans could close the earnings gap between them and other ethnic groups, mostly whites, that has plagued them for at least seven decades.

Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that: “No progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.” Similar research from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances showed that the median net worth of black households in 2016 was $17,150, while the same statistic at the same time period for white families was $171,000, nearly ten times as high.

Inarguably, more employment-authorized immigration weakens labor markets, and puts downward pressure on wages — the supply and demand law at its most basic. Unchecked immigration also gives cheap, labor-addicted corporations license to under-pay immigrants who need jobs but have limited skills.

In his January 10 Chicago Tribune Op-Ed, “A Major Culprit in the Wage Gap between Blacks and Whites is America’s Immigration Policy,” Frank Morris noted that when the Congressional Black Caucus votes in unison to expand immigration and to authorize more guest worker employment-based visas, they’re rejecting the counsel of earlier black heroes. Morris, drawing in part from Roy Beck’s recently published book, “Back of the Hiring Line,” wrote that during the decades following the Civil War, black leaders like social reformer Frederick Douglass, civil rights champion W.E.B. Du Bois, activist Marcus Garvey and labor unionist A. Philip Randolph who, in 1925, organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful African-American led labor union, all favored restricting immigration to help free enslaved people and their descendants. As Du Bois said, in words that ring as true today as they did then, stopping the importation of cheap labor “on any terms has been the economic salvation of American black labor.”

Not only have blacks in Congress, as well as state and local governments’ black elected officials, turned a deaf ear to historically prominent figures like Douglass, Du Bois, Garvey and Randolph, but they’ve also ignored Coretta Scott King, Martin’s widow who is often referred to as “The First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.” In 1991, after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act passed with employer sanctions that penalized hiring illegal immigrants, the Senate began drafting provisions that would weaken those sanctions, and dilute interior enforcement. King and other black community leaders wrote to then-U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch (R- Utah) to urge that he postpone the introduction of his employer sanctions repeal legislation. The group wanted an opportunity to prove to the Senate that a repeal would have a devastating effect on the economic livelihood of low-skilled workers, a disproportionate percentage of whom were African-American and Hispanic. King’s efforts to persuade Hatch were unsuccessful. For more than 30 years, illegal immigrant labor has, just as King feared, severely affected blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, and has denied them an opportunity to move up and into the middle class.

The CBC has abandoned its constituency, choosing to support foreign nationals. Instead of helping struggling blacks, the CBC actively hurts them. The caucus accepts without criticism the current illegal alien border surge which will eventually loosen the labor market when the aliens are paroled with work permits. The caucus votes as a block in favor of immigration-expansion legislation including amnesty for millions, and it promotes paths to citizenship for deferred action and temporary protected status holders. American blacks are excluded from CBC’s progressive agenda which guarantees that, for years to come, the wage gap between African-Americans and whites will remain unchanged.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

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Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and American baseball history. Twitter @JoeGuzzardi19