Could Immigration Reform Impact Black Unemployment?

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 11/24/2014 | 12:30 PM EST

President Obama's executive order on immigration reform could take away jobs from Black Americans

Could President Barack Obama’s recently announced executive order on immigration have a dire impact on Black employment? Some advocates and concerned African Americans say so.

Announced last week, President Obama’s pending order would allow 4 million non-citizens previously in the United States without immigration status to obtain work authorization. That ability to work, however, could possibly cut into the little job opportunities afforded to the Black community, which currently has an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent. That rate is slowly inching toward double the rate of the nation’s overall unemployment rate, which is at 5.8 percent.

Political reporter Lauren Victoria Burke brings up this very issue in an article published on The Root.

Despite what’s at stake, Burke points out that Black political leaders have hailed the president’s executive order on immigration rather than acknowledging its possible ramifications.

Some have called it "a defining civil and human rights issue of our time.”   

"We know that the nation's immigration system is broken and that the status quo does not serve our economic or long-term interests," said Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Wade Henderson.

Burke writes:

Advocates are skipping over a difficult discussion about whether African Americans would be competing for the same blue-collar jobs many immigrants are likely to be vying for. Why?

The fact is that immigration activists are lobbying harder on behalf of their constituencies—and their efforts have been more effective—than any black civil rights group has been with respect to the issues and priorities of the black communities that they represent.

Obama's executive action, announced Thursday, is the second federal directive immigration activists have won. Recall that in 2012, the president issued an order, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that halted deportations for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children if they applied for a deferral—and more than 500,000 people did. There wasn't much comment from black leaders in 2012 either.

Black leaders such as NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, Rev. Al Sharpton and Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Bennie Thompson have all co-signed the president’s immigration order.

"The executive action by the president is a huge step forward for the civil and human rights movement," Sharpton said. "This is a constructive way to deal with a human problem in which everyone wins."

Though the Black community’s leadership doesn’t seem to be concerned about the impact of immigrants possibly snatching up jobs, employment remains the number one issue for Black Americans.

“So while many civil rights groups appear to be on automatic pilot in their support for immigration reform, they may be out of step with many of the people they say they represent,” Burke writes. “Perhaps soon, civil rights leaders will publicly address what the overall effect of granting 5 million more non-citizens the right to work might be on black unemployment.”

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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