Suzanne Gamboa, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), March 2, 2011
Black lawmakers accused Republicans on Tuesday of trying to “manufacture tension” between African-Americans and immigrants as GOP House members argued in a hearing that more minorities would be working were it not for illegal immigration.
“I am concerned by the majority’s attempt to manufacture tension between African-Americans and immigrant communities. It seems as though they would like for our communities to think about immigration in terms of ‘us versus them,’ and I reject that notion,” Cleaver [Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus] said in his statement.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, issued a warning at the start of the hearing against any attempts to pit blacks against Latino immigrants, a notion that he said he found “so abhorrent and repulsive.”
The Republican takeover of the House has given the GOP the chance to shape the immigration debate this session. Republicans have been couching their immigration agenda in the context of the slumping economy and consistently high unemployment. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., the subcommittee’s chairman, argued that the “real victims of the failed immigration policies” are low-skilled legal workers. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus
“Our focus should be on ensuring every U.S. citizen American who is willing to work has a job instead of (filling) jobs with foreign laborers,” Gallegly said. Immigrants often compete for jobs with low-income laborers, he said.
Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, pointed out that after Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Georgia Crider Inc., which had 600 jobs filled by people not working in the country legally, the company raised wages $1 an hour and attracted legal workers, primarily black Americans.
Wade Henderson, chairman and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, acknowledged that because of the higher unemployment in their communities, African-Americans fear the immigrant work force will make it harder for them to get jobs.
Henderson said high unemployment among blacks has a wide variety of causes. Unemployment rates for more than 50 years have been almost double what they are for white Americans, he said, even as the population of foreign-born people in the U.S. has increased.