IMMIGRATION AND AFRICAN AMERICANS
The Impact of Neo-
By Uriah J. Fields
What is the position of African Americans
on immigration and what role should they
play in the immigration debate?
A major factor that nobody is willing to talk about during the current debacle-prone debate on immigration within and outside of the legislative chambers is the impact, begnning with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, of immigration on African Americans. The immigrants referred to here are those from Mexico and South America, a large percentage of whom illegally entered the United States. They compose seventy percent of the immigrants who came to the United States during the last twenty-five years.
There is much rhetoric about the need for these immigrants "to do work that Americans want do." Those who say that should cease spouting our this unmitigated lie. Think for a moment about the people who did that work prior to 1980, including the period of slavery. We are told that Hispanics, the name used in America for Mexicans and other Spanish speaking people south of the United States, are doing 24 percent of the work in agriculture,17 percent in the cleaning sector, and 9 percent of the construction jobs. Many others are employed in service jobs such as restaurants and hotels. And their work is by no means restricted to these categories. At least 7,000.000 of these illegal immigrants are Mexicans. They make up 5 percent of the American workforce.
According to the U.S. Census, in 1980, there were 14,808,873 Hispanics and 28,495,025 African Americans in the United States. In 1990 the number of Hispanics increased to 22,354,059 and the number of African Americans to 29,958,080. In 2006 the African American population is 35,000.000 and the Hispainic population is 40,000.000. With an additional 10,000.000 undocumented Hispanics their numbers are estimated to be 50,000.000 and that number is increasing by 2,000 a day. From 1980, when the Hispanic population was 14,808.873 and the African American population was 28,495.025 to the present, African Americans have increased by 6,000.000 while during that same period the Hispanic population has increased by 35,000.000. Should this trend continue by 2030 there will be more than 70,000.000 Hispanics in the United States. At present there are 300,000.000 people in the United States and 7,000.000.000 people on Planet Earth.
With these facts and figures in mind there are a few observations that need to be made in order to put the matter of this discussion in historical perspective. With the state of Texas being in limbo because Mexico never fully recognized Texas independence at the time that the United States wanted to make Texas a state, in 1845, President James Polk, the 11th president of the United States, sent a diplomat to Mexico with an eminent domain-like offer to purchase New Mexico and California from the Mexican government. He also wanted Mexico to agree to establish the Rio Grande river as the border between the two countries, which would make Texas part of the United States. President Polk sent military forces to the Rio Grande where they won battles. By mid-1846 there was fighting in California and Los Angeles came under the control of the U. S. military forces. Subsequently, the U. S. Army seized Mexico City. Shortly after the new Year of 1848, the Peace Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidaigo was completed and the war ended.
Approximately one-and-a half century later the Mexicans are returning in hordes, we might say, to reclaim the land of their foreparents. Some Americans call them illegal immigrants. Looking through the lenses of the natural order of things with an eye on the fact that history sometimes repeats itself it appears that the chickens have and are coming home to roost.
Before 1980, to a considerably lessser degree than after that, Mexicans, then called "wetbacks," waded the Rio Gande and illegally entered the United States. The truth of the matter is, they were allowed, brought and encouraged by Americans to come to America and work, mainly in the agriculture fields.
In the late nineteen sixties, about the time African Americans gained their civil rights, after more than a decade of intense civil rights struggle that began in the mid-fifties under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.,and the deaths of some freedom fighter that included the assassination of King, white Americans, especially white leaders, recognized that by law they had to cease practicing racial discrimination in the workplace, treat African Americans with dignity and give them pay equal to that received by white workers doing similar work. Particularly in these two areas white controllers devised ways to get around the law by (1) establishing private schools to circumvent having to send their children to schools attended by black children and (2) employing immigrants to do menial and common labor. To accomplish the latter, they employed non-American Mexican laborers to take jobs, many of them that would have been available for black workers who these employers did not want to employ. They recognized that they could pay illegal immigrant workers less than they would be required to pay black workers and not have to be concerned about violating the law because of federal, state and local governments in executing this racist scheme.
After Black Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, the U. S. Government, including the Supreme Court that handed down the 1896 "Plessy v Ferguson" decision, establishing the constitutional legality of the white racist "separate but equal" doctrine, sided with the Ku Klux Klan and other white racist groups in denying and even taking away rights that first generation ex-slaves were enjoying. Similarly, after the Civil Rights of the nineteen sixties the United States Government approved the white corporation agenda and those they represented that allowed the white corporation to employ illegal immigrants and again as had been done in the early nineteenth century, deprive black Americans from enjoying the benefits they had achieved through struggle. Included in this consortium of corporations are large American farms. With few exceptions, today the family farm is a misnomer, oxymoron, or a joke.
When illegal immigrants were just adversely impacting black Americans it did not concern the politicians and was not considered by most Americans to be a problem.
It is worth noting that many of the rights Mexicans did not enjoy when they were called "wetbacks," but now enjoy, were made possible by the Civil Rights struggle forged by black Americans.These include, the right to vote, access to nondiscriminatory education, health care and welfare benefits; rights that the parents and foreparents of African
The impact of neo-immigration is much greater on black Americans than on white Americans. Elucidation on the five headings listed below will show the magnitude of the impact of immigration on African Americans: (1) Black employment. This category could correctly be called black unemployment and black underemployment. Black unemployment is the highest that it has ever been in America since the Great Depression and black underemployment is not far behind. In some black communities unemployment among adults is twenty-five percent. Never mind the Government-issued reports on unemployment. They simply do not apply to black unemployed people. You can take your own poll on this by spending time in the black communities. Then you will not have to be like former President Ronald Reagans who said that he didn't know any poor people in America. Well, there was then and now plenty poor people in America. To know that there are unemployed and poor black people you may have to go where they reside. Beginning in 1980 and every year since black unemployment has been on the rise and has continued unto the present. Never mind all that propaganda you hear about how much black people prospered in the nineties during the presidency of President William Bill Clinton. Some people even have the adaucity to call him the first "black president." Well, that is not true for this black man. Race-wised, black Americans did not thrive and advance economically during Clinton's presidency. During Clinton's presidency black unemployhment was high and has continued to rise. Couple that with the so-called welfare reform that did little to help black women with children but helped devestate the black family. Black men were forced to leave their families in order for their families to receive welfare checks. Being either underemployed or unemployed many black men recognized that it was in the best interest of their families for them to do what they consider to be the "lovely thing" and leave their families, at least not live in the same house with their wives and children. Here, the system is at fault, not black men. In many instances the jobs that black men would have were being held by illegal immigrants and so-called legal immigrants who should have remained in their own native countries and made them better places for themselves and their fellow-countrypersons. To have aided them a smart thing America could have done would have been to outsource some of her CEOs and other supposingly American experts to those countries who claim that they can literally use magic rather than scientific agriculture to produce food. They say "it's not the land; it's the man." This would have given them a chance to prove the validity, if there was any in it, of their claim. Think about how much better off the people in Cuba, as a nation, would be today if the United States had not encouraged and brought...and continues to bring...Cubans, including some of the best brains of that country, to the United States. Today, there is nothing in Little Miami that could not be in Havana had those Cuban immigrants in America remained in Cuba. The immigrants took jobs that black men had held for generations. It is an established fact that white empoyers will employ non-blacks before they employ blacks. This culturally-based practiced is indicative of the systemic ethos of racism in America.
2. Housing. Very often, soon after illegal immigrants arrive in the United States they locate in the black community where housing is the least expensive and they find acceptance. Oftentimes, twelve or more immigrants will live in a two or three room house or apartment. In that way they are able to pay higher rent than blacks had been paying and blacks are forced out of their homes and apartments that they had rented or owned. Mexicans have been known to price blacks out of entire neigborhoods. Watts, California is just one example. In some instances blacks have been made homeless as a result of the presence of immigrants in their communties. While the poverty rate for Hispanics is 23 percent it is 24 percent for African Americans who have lived in America for several centuries.
3. Prisons and Jails. Since 1980 the prison population of African American males has soared to an all-time high. While the prison population today is about 15 percent for Mexicans it is 46 percent for African Americans. In twelve states, between 10 and 15 percent of adult black men are incarceated. This high rate of incarceration of black men is not confined to the South. It exists in practically every state where blacks have a significant presence and in some states where blacks comprise only a small percentage of the state's populaton. Young black men who should be getting an education, working and supporting families are in prison. Once they are out of prison they are called criminals or ex-cons, and with a criminal record they are considerd to be unemployable, although while in prison they worked like dogs, so to speak, to enrich profiteers. They are also disfranchised. Logic would suggest that if ex-prisoners cannot be trusted to vote, they certainly cannot be trusted to be responsible on a job. It is easy to see that, by design, the incarceration of black men is a genocidal plan aimed at the life-sucking and liquidation of black people in America.
A word is in order for the black woman: Black woman be aware that the designers of the so-called welfare reform had something else in mind that is even more destructive for you than what has been mentioned. The black woman cannot be who she was created to be without the black man being who he was created to be. Neither Oprah Winfrey or Condoleezza Rice is able to make the contribution to society, more importantly, to the human race, that their mothers in partenership with black men, their fathers made. Go no farther than either of these two persons to validate this claim. Remember, our would-be designers are not, individually or collectively, our Creator. One of the earliest commands that the Creator gave to man and his partner, who was and will always meant to be a woman, a coupling capable of reproducing, was "be fruitful and multiply." Black women, in particular, do not be mis-led to believe that black men today, potentially, are any less than were our and their fathers and grandfathers. To think otherwise is to insult our mothers, fathers and grandparents. Today black men do not have the support from society that they need in order to succeed as they ought. There is no Marshal Plan, reparations, welfare plan or other plan to assist black men. For them there is only and adversarial and punitive plan called "incarceration-exclusion." Now, more than ever black men, and surely if that succeeds, black women will follow, are considered to be dispensible because illegal immigrant and some legal immigrants are considered to be the new Negroes in America. Indeed, this in part, is the legacy of slavery and legal segregation that affects both the descendants of slaves and slavemasters and fuels illegal immigration. Think about it, today we look to India to send us physicians, but for centuries African Americans were prohibited from attending medical schools in most states. Even today, only a few of them are accepted into the medical schools
4. Black Community and Black Frustration. In recent years the black community has become infiltrated not just by the physical proximity of non-black people to black people in their community but by a foreign mentality saturated with a white supremacy mentality and environmental fragmentation that combined have essentially removed the cohesiveness and stability that traditionally glued and held the black community together. Today the black community is infested with drugs that black people did not produce any more than they produced the toothpaste they use. High frustration among blacks is considered by the larger society and many blacks to be normal despite the fact that it creates stress and many health problems. It also causes demoralization and engagement in crime by underclass people trying to survive. Some people find it easier to take a bath or sleep on a cot out of the cold in a prison than it is for them to take a bath and sleep on a cot out of the cold when living outside of a prison. Yet, America is the richest country in the world and many of her affluent citizens waste enough to provide essentials for the basic needs of the ten percent of the people at the bottom. The wholesale immigrant intrusion into and occupation of the black community and some other areas of America has contributed to the frustration that blacks experience every day. One definition of the black communiy is: wherever a black person, certainly a large number of them reside in an area; the black community is. Poverty is the plight of many black Americans. Let those who say that it is not money that is needed to respond to the plight of black Americans hear that it is not money that is needed to fight a war in Iraq. Economics is the answer to poverty. Not only does it take money to build a bomb; it take money to build a house. In recent years, not only has the income gap between whites and blacks widened it has also widened between Mexicans and blacks, notwithstanding the fact that many Mexicans are illegal immigrants and are sending much of what they earn to Mexico and beyond. Since it became acceptable to give blacks equal pay to that given whites doing similar work, illegal immigrants are more likely to be hired than African Americans, sometimes under the guise that they are minorities too. Let it be known that black people are not minorities. Rightly, they do not see themselves as minorities. No one should accept the all-too-prevailing view held by many Americans that black men don't want to work. That is another lie. Black laborers helped to build America. To those advocating the nobleness of "hard work," let it be known that hard work is not a virtue.
5. Black Political Power. The political power of black people is threatened by neo-immigration. It is predictable that in the near future the political representation of blacks in Congress, state and local governments will be less than it is at present. This will be a reality by the year 2013. There is a correlation between the influx of Hispanics in America and the decline in the condition of African-Americans, politically, economically and educationally, that parallels with the correlation between the importation of African slaves to America and the decimation of Native Americans (so-called Indians) during that period of history.
What should be the response of black people to immigration" First, it seems that blacks should insist that the language presently being used, i. e., "illegal immigrants" and "undocumented immigrants" be deemed antiquated and inappropriate. It is even questionable as to whether these people shoud be called immigrants. Nobody refers to President George W. Bush and Vice-Pesident Dick Cheney as immigrants; nobody perhaps, with the exception of Native Americans. Even during slavery when an African-American was considered as stated in the United States Constitution to be three-fifth of a person he was considered to be a citizen of a sort, at least for tax purposes. Of course, he did not enjoy three-fifth of his citizenship rights. It just maybe that if we begin calling so-called illegal immigrants citizens that this alone will be fifty percent of the solution or a manageable approach to this hot-button immigration issue.
Given the adverse impact that the influx of so-called illegal immigrants, Mexicans in particuar, have since 1980 had on African Amercans the questrion: "What should be the response of African Americans to the immigration issue"?" Although a legitimate one, it is difficult for African Americans to answer in that they themselves were enslaved for 244 years, subjected to legalized segregation, racial discrimination and disfranchised for a 100 years before immigration became a problem for Americans, including black Americans. African Americans are aware that they were denied their citizenship rights before neo-immigration became a problem and that these immigrants, no less than slaves of former times, were brought, allowed and encouraged to come to America, in part, to replace them in the labor market and hasten the day when they would become dispensable as laborers. That does not make it easy for African Americans to take a self-interest position in this matter but ... .
The facts are in. Blacks have been hit hard, brutally wounded, families destroyed, increased underemployment and unemployment, skyrocketed incarceration of black males, maleducation and an increase in school drop-outs. These are the things that come to mind when blacks think about immigration. There is evidence that black Americans may become effete, if not extinct, and the question is being raise: "What role is immigration playing in the worsening condition of black people?" While all black disfunctionalism cannot be attributed to immigration, it is obvious that it is a significant contributing factor to black destructiveness.
In a recent poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Research Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of black respondents said they had personally lost a job to the immigrants or knew someone who had. Nearly a fifth of the white respondents did that. There is unrefutable evidence that immigrants are depriving black people of jobs and causing employers to pay some non-immigrant workers, black and white, less than they would pay them if immigrants workers, were not being employed. Yet, in the face of this litany of undesirables that plague black people and even though I do not feel comfortable in speaking for black people I hasten, in this matter, to suggest that black people, including black politicians, should not fight or oppose immigration, including so-called illegal immigration, because in a real sense it is not illegal immigration, if for no other reason than the Government has not dealth with it as being illegal immigration. Think about what happens to black people when they commit minor illegal acts. The truth is so-called illegal immigrants being in America, is as American as apple pie. The people who brought and allowed these immigrants to be laborers in America are the same people, i.e., the descendants of those who brought Africans to be enslaved in America, and for the same purpose. When slavery ended there were nearly five million black people in America out of a total population of thirty-one million. Today, the Hispanic population is fifty million and growing faster than any other ethnic group in America. This is a significant percentage of the three hundred million people in America.
Considering the history of black people in America and their commitment to justice and equaity the black response has to be, indeed, it must be, that regardless to how people got to America, whether they came on a slave ship, waded through the waters of the Rio Grande, on the Mayflower, or by jet airplane, be treated equally and with respect, with no special denials, or privileges for anyone that are not granted to everyone. "E pluribus unum!" (as appears on a nickel). Are not we all the grandchildren of Gandpa Adam and Grandma Eve?
Beyond these things, may African Americans who have struggled and waited patiently for justice for themselves to become a reality, at this junction in history, may do well to pause and be observers rather than participants in the present immigratioin battle that is being fought by Hispancis and white Americans. In the meantime, African Americans must be unwavering in their demand for what is rightly due themselves and never forget that "This is their America too!' It just maybe that illegal immigrants viz. Mexicans returning to the land once inhabited by their foreparents and African Americans' demand for reparations as compensation for 244 years of requited slave labor rendered by their foreparents are both "just" endeavors that are worthy of being pursued vigorously and vigilantly at this time in history.
Engraved on the Statue of Liberty, given to the United States by France, are these words of Emma Lazarus, in her poem "The New Colossus."
"Give me your tied, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
Copyright 2007 by Uriah J. Fields