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GOP Immigration Hardliners: Voting Records Aside, We Care About Minority Workers

America's Voice | Released on 02/28/2011

Once Again, Republican House Members Try to Disguise Mass Deportation Agenda, But Their Voting Records Reveal Rank Hypocrisy

Washington – Under the direction of the new Republican leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Immigration Subcommittee will conduct a hearing tomorrow entitled, “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities.”  Undoubtedly, the proceedings will be another opportunity for Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA), and Elton Gallegly (R-CA) to portray themselves as staunch defenders of the American worker – in this case, African-American and other minority groups – as they try to rebrand their mass deportation agenda on immigration.  However, once again, they find that their actual voting records differ substantially from their rhetoric. 

Using civil rights scorecards for the 111th Congress issued by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP, America’s Voice finds that the Republicans trying to portray themselves as defenders of minority workers have dismal voting records on issues of importance to these key institutions.  Specifically, House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Rep. Elton Gallegly received a 0% on the Leadership Conference scorecard and a F grade, 18%, on the NAACP scorecard; Rep. Steve King received a 0% on the Leadership Conference scorecard and a F grade, 8%, on the NAACP scorecard; and House Judiciary Chair Rep. Lamar Smith received a 6% on the Leadership Conference scorecard and a F grade, 18%, from the NAACP.  In other words, despite the cloying overtures to minority workers that we are likely to hear tomorrow, the voting records of this hearing’s organizers simply don’t match their rhetoric.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Another day, another hypocritical attempt by Republican immigration hardliners to disguise their mass deportation agenda in more popular terms.  But these politicians have been voting against the rights of workers for years.  This hearing is a transparent attempt to rebrand their extreme, anti-immigration agenda, and it won’t work.  Instead of a public relations strategy, voters want a policymaking strategy that results in real, comprehensive immigration reform.”

Indeed, Gallegly and King have made “birthright citizenship” one of their signature issues, and drawn a strong backlash from civil rights groups because of it.  The Leadership Conference and other organizations have joined forces in Americans for Constitutional Citizenship, a coalition of leaders and organizations opposed to gutting the 14th Amendment.

As if their rank hypocrisy wasn’t bad enough, the Committee leaders are wrong on the facts, as well.  A series of recent economic studies and analyses have concluded that immigrants do not harm African American workers and that comprehensive immigration reform would be a boon to the U.S. economy, strengthen tax revenue, and raise wages for native-born workers across education and skill levels.  Specifically:

  • Immigration Does Not Drive American Unemployment:  A 2010 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that native-born U.S. workers experience modest wage increases from immigration and that any negative effects on wages were felt largely by the workers who are the most substitutable for new immigrants—that is, earlier immigrants.  According to the study’s author Heidi Shierholz, “Americans are right to worry about the declining quality of jobs over the last few decades, but immigration has had very little to do with that.”  She also notes that “immigration could have a much more beneficial impact on the U.S. economy if the current immigration system were given a comprehensive overhaul. In particular, legalization of the large number of undocumented workers, which would give them the chance to unionize, bargain for better wages, or change jobs, would boost wages and labor standards overall.

    Other studies specifically looking at minority workers have come to a similar conclusion – there is little relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates among African Americans.  Research by Rob Paral and Associates on behalf of the Immigration Policy Center found that areas with many immigrants in the labor force do not have especially high levels of unemployment among native‐born black workers (nor native-born white, Hispanic, or Asian workers).  Similarly, areas with the highest rates of unemployment among native‐born blacks, whites, Hispanics, or Asians have lower numbers of recent immigrants in the labor force.  In fact, the report found, “in the 10 states with the highest shares of recent immigrants in the labor force, the average unemployment rate for native‐born blacks is about 4 percentage points less than in the 10 states with the lowest shares of recent immigrants.”  Similarly, “in the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest shares of recent immigrants in the labor force, the unemployment rate for native‐born blacks is about 1.5 percentage points less than in the 10 metropolitan areas with the lowest share of recent immigrants.” 

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Boost the Economy & Help ALL American Workers:  As opposed to the mass deportation, enforcement-only approach, addressing and fixing the immigration system in a wholesale manner will be a boon to the U.S. economy and all U.S. workers.  That is why both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win created The Labor Movement’s Joint Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda conducted a 2010 report for the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center that found that “Unlike the current enforcement-only strategy, comprehensive reform would raise the ‘wage floor’ for the entire U.S. economy—to the benefit of both immigrant and native-born workers.”  According to the study, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants and creating flexible legal limits on future immigration flows would generate enough consumer-spending to support 750,000-900,000 jobs.  The report also found that the mass deportation approach would reduce GDP by 1.46 percent annually, amounting to a loss of $2.6 trillion over 10 years.

According to Sharry, “The real color battle on immigration is not about ‘brown versus black,’ but red versus black.  Does Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform and shore up our tax base, or pursue the mass deportation fantasy of Smith, Gallegly, and King, and spend billions of taxpayer dollars kicking out hard-working immigrants and their families?”

For a Copy of the New America’s Voice Analysis, Visit: http://www.americasvoiceonline.org/CivilRightsScorecard

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.

www.americasvoiceonline.org

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