Lesley Clark, Miami Herald, April 26, 2007
T. Willard Fair, an ally of former Gov. Jeb Bush, is the new face of opposition to proposals like one championed by President Bush to allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship.
Fair, president of the Urban League of Greater Miami, is appearing in ads in The Washington Post and RollCall, a Capitol Hill newspaper, saying that “to black Americans, amnesty is an immoral seizure of our jobs.
The ads are sponsored by the Coalition for the Future American Worker. Its members include the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which wants to beef up border security, end illegal immigration and cut legal immigration in half.
“I see illegal immigration and the adverse impact that it has on the political empowerment of African Americans, and the impact it has on the job market,” Fair, a political independent, said in a telephone interview with The Miami Herald.
The ad quotes Fair saying black Americans have lost “hundreds of thousands of jobs to foreign workers willing to work for next to nothing,” and blames undocumented immigrants for “40 percent of the decline in employment among black American men.”
It cites a 2006 National Bureau of Economic Research paper that suggests a “strong correlation between immigration, black wages, black employment rates and black incarceration rates.”
“It’s not true that immigrants take jobs from black folks,” said activist Mel Reeves, who participates in demonstrations on behalf of low-wage workers. “The solution is not to pit one group against the other, but create jobs so everyone can be gainfully employed.”
But Fair said in the interview he also is worried that unchecked immigration could cost blacks politicallyby diluting mostly black congressional districts.
“As we are at a zenith of our political power; with what’s happening with illegal immigration we could easily lose six or eight seats,” Fair said.
CRITICS LINING UP
The NAACP, though, has endorsed allowing a path to citizenship. Sen. Barack Obama, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said he would not support legislation that does not include an earned path to citizenship. A spokesman for the National Urban League said the group has not taken a stance on immigration reform.
Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform point to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll that shows 78 percent support earned citizenship for some undocumented workers.
Fair, though, said he believes black leaders have been reluctant to criticize immigration because immigrants were among the first to embrace black civil rights organizations.
Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which belongs to the coalition and supports capping immigration, said he hopes to run radio spots featuring Fair. He said he was captivated by him after attending a symposium in Washington that Fair initiated on blacks and immigration. “I wondered why aren’t the black leaders standing up for black workers,” Beck said. “Willard is willing to say the emperor has no clothes.”