Black leadership groups are divided on the hot-button issue.
Members of the African American Leadership Council harshly denounced immmigration reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. According to Frank Morris, who heads the group, the bill will ensure that the African-American unemployment rate continues to be double the national figure.
For years, Morris argues, employers have preferred to hire undocumented workers because they are a cheap source of labor and depress wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens.
"They're the ones employers have wanted to hire because they can cheat them on overtime and salary and keep them off the books," he told BET.com after the group's Wednesday morning press conference. "So, we have the irony of noncitizen workers who benefitted from non-enforcement of immigration and labor laws."
Morris also scoffed at the notion that undocumented workers aren't really competing with African-Americans in the workforce because they're willing to take jobs that nobody else will. He said that immigrants are overwhelmingly taking jobs away from Blacks in three sectors: hospitality services, construction and light manufacturing now and in the future.
"The bill will permit folks who should not be here to not only have official access to jobs that many of them are already getting, but also benefits like the earned income tax credit where there's already a strain and we see Congress limiting these safety-net benefits," Morris said.
The traditional civil rights groups that are part of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights believe that the members of the African American Leadership Council, a majority of whom are pastors, have extreme views and in fact lead no one.
“Actual civil rights leaders view immigration reform as a defining civil and human rights issue of our time. The opinions expressed in today’s press conference are not shared by most African-Americans, civil rights leaders, members of the Congressional Black Caucus or any other significant constituency in the African-American community," said Leadership Conference president and CEO Wade Henderson. "African-Americans are certainly not monolithic in their thinking on this or any other issue, but we know that the nation’s immigration system is broken and that the status quo does not serve our economic or long-term interests."
Indeed, the CBC wants to ensure that reform legislation would ensure that Blacks are given adequate opportunities to move to the U.S. Currently, the legislation calls for an end of "diversity" visas, that have been a pathway for many African and Caribbean immigrants.
"We are concerned that the Diversity Visa Program has been eliminated. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Taskforce on Immigration Reform are currently reviewing the bill to make sure it addresses the unique concerns of the Black Immigrant and African-American communities, particularly in ensuring diversity of immigrants, justice reform and efforts to invest in STEM programs at minority-serving institutions remain top priorities," said CBC chair Rep. Marcia Fudge.
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(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)