Some of us took time over Thanksgiving to invoke our ancestors who came to these shores generations ago. For many, our relatives established themselves here during The Great Wave of Immigration. We honor their struggles. We celebrate their perseverance through adversity. We give thanks - for them and for their migration to the land we now love.
Wisdom requires the acknowledgement of tradeoffs. The establishment of European colonies in America, and the westward expansion that followed came at a great cost to the indigenous peoples who were already here. Likewise, the descendants of American slaves may not wish to celebrate immigration: Not only were their ancestors brought here by force, but immigration has historically denied Freedmen the economic opportunities that have been promised again and again.
"Is Immigration Good for African Americans?" asks Glenn Loury:
Open borders advocates sometimes attempt to harness sympathy for the interests of black American voters in support of their more permissive immigration policies. Such policies are said to be anti-racist. Yet, in terms of the workings of low-skilled labor markets, it's quite possible that a steady stream of immigrant laborers will put some downward pressure on wages and employment opportunities for African Americans. Why, then, should black Americans uncritically and in the name of "antiracism" support policies that may end up making their lives more difficult? Is it because tight borders are inherently racist, and it's the duty of African Americans to fight racism, no matter the consequences? "Counterintuitive" would be a polite word for such a proposition. "Bullshit" would be a more accurate one."
"I'd like to see some debate among African-Americans about it," Loury concludes.
That debate has been ongoing since Frederick Douglass' day, although it may be argued that it hasn't been in the mainstream since the death of Barbara Jordan in 1996. That's not to say it isn't happening. It is. A Twitter Space titled "How does immigration Benefit Black Americans" trended #1 on Twitter earlier this year. The debate continues.
Charles Stallworth, a union railroad worker, writes in Newsweek:
It's estimated that we have over 10 million people in this country illegally, and 2 million who came just last year. That is not democracy. We cannot truly assess the needs of the American people while we have millions of people who are not supposed to be here."
A. Philip Randolph, the champion organizer of Black railroad workers himself, was equally clear on the question.
"[O]ne of the sad tragic facts is that Americans have always given and preferred benefits to immigrants over some of our own best." Frank Morris, the former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said that nine years ago. And he lamented the lack of voices in the public domain who would speak for Black Americans harmed by immigration policy.
"The tragedy," Morris said, "is that young people, when they see negative differentials between the African-American community and the rest, have no idea that these have been strongly influenced by policy, and that immigration policy - which is currently by the non-enforcement of the laws, the labor laws - are exacerbating this fact."
But there are more Americans who are finding their voice on this now. People are waking up to the legacy of mass-immigration-policies as they relate to Black wealth.
JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Dec 9th 2022 @ 9:50am EST