Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Role of Mass Immigration in Delaying Economic and Social Progress for Black Americans, 1865-1924

Roy Beck's 1996 book, The Case Against Immigration, he argued that the asset deficit that plagues a significant portion of today’s Black Americans was created to a large degree by the mass immigration that occurred between 1865 and 1924. The following is a passage from Beck's book detailing the plight of Black Americans faced with an uphill struggle against illegal immigration.

Some freed slaves and other free Blacks moved quickly up the middle-class industrial ladder shortly after the Civil War. But a snowballing mass immigration quickly reversed most of those gains and kept most Black Americans from getting in on the ground floor of the industrial jobs, skills and wages until a short period during World War I when the supply of new foreign workers was shut off and then when Congress reduced annual immigration numbers to more traditional levels in 1924.

Not only did Black Americans get started much later than most European immigrants in acquiring skills, property and savings from the industrial economy, but they lost a half-century on the White American families who were in the country at the end of the Civil War.

The rapid economic, social and legal improvements that occurred during periods of low immigration are strong indicators that if not for the mass immigration of 1865-1924, Black Americans today would have far greater assets.

Despite great gains in civil rights in the 1960s and forward, the march of the Black population into the middle class has been stalled for a frighteningly large minority. I believe present evidence suggests that America’s recent immigration policy is having a similar effect to that of the policies of 1865-1924 in creating the conditions for Black poverty and asset deficits.

Co-opted by the Democratic Party: Once most Black citizens moved into the Democratic Party in the 1930s, leaving behind the Republican Party, they lost a lot of freedom to speak up for themselves against high immigration, said Daryl Scott, a professor of modern U.S. history at Howard University.

Despite the influence of the Robber Barons in the Republican Party, Black citizens could always speak freely against immigration in that Party because a major faction of the Party was threatened culturally and politically by high immigration, which also undermined many Progressive Republican social efforts. "But one consistent position of the Democratic Party through history is they have been the party of open immigration," the professor said. "A problem for Blacks in joining the Democratic Party is that it closed off discussion" on immigration while providing all kinds of other benefits.

One solution on immigration would be that enough Black Americans move to the Republican Party so that Democratic leaders would no longer take them for granted, creating an opening for candid talk about the effects of immigration.

Another solution would be for those within the Democratic Party to stop fearing losing other advantages within the Party and just speak up on immigration.

There are plenty of Democratic Party principles that should support limited immigration, but first the Party must overcome huge historical emotional ties to open borders -- as well as the fact that immigration always provides net additions of Democratic votes in elections.

Silenced by philanthropic foundations: The professor said that for a century the big foundations (largely connected to corporate America) have provided highly valuable resources to assist Black institutions. A price for accepting that money has been at least a tacit understanding that Black leaders would keep silent about the harm cheap foreign labor does to Black workers.

Restrained by respect for Hispanic leaders: Despite much talk about hostility between Blacks and Hispanics, the professor said, in most situations members of the two groups find a natural affinity when working on other issues. Because Hispanic leaders want open borders so badly, Black leaders find it impolite to speak up even though the open borders are destroying parts of the Black community.

Stifled by fear of Hispanic voters: A large percentage of congressional districts represented by Black Members of Congress have major Hispanic populations.

Hispanic immigrants are more likely to settle in the Black communities that are poor -- one of the reasons Black workers are disproportionately harmed by high immigration.

Although it might seem logical that Black politicians would serve the interests of Black citizens in matters of immigration, they often don't because they perceive Hispanic voters as wanting the opposite policy.

One Black leader at the symposium said Black politicians must be able to publicly state that the immigration policies that most help Black citizens (reduced numbers of immigrants) are also the ones that would be best economically for Hispanic citizens.

The needs of Hispanic citizens and Hispanic leaders differ on immigration. The leaders often are seeking high immigration in order to give them enough demographic power to overthrow Black leaders and establish their ethnic group as the "Senior Partner" in t he Rainbow Coalition. But the Hispanic leaders' desire for political dominance over Black Americans is often at the expense of economic and social quality of life for Hispanic citizens who tend to suffer even more from high immigration than do Black citizens.

Fortunately, there are already a growing number of local Hispanic leaders who are joining forces for lower immigration for the benefit of all Americans, but especially for poor Hispanics.

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