Immigrants Vs. Blacks

Studies show that immigration affects the wages of African Americans

the true heart of the problem is not so much the number of immigrants in the labor supply, but the conditions that drive employers to exploit those workers by offering them lower pay and undesirable working conditions. In his testimony, Gerald Jaynes, a Yale University professor of economics and African American Studies and member of the BE Board of Economists, said, “The terms of the debate must be changed to [reflect] a desire to protect the integrity of the nation’s low-wage labor markets and citizens working in them from conditions inconsistent with standards of living and values of justice in affluent representative democracies.” Remedies would include minimum wage laws for all workers, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit system, and stronger enforcement of laws against undocumented migration.

Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, also believes that there are policy remedies that could have a more direct impact on African American employment opportunities, particularly for young workers. “Immigration has a wide range of costs and benefits — education, technical education and job training, expanding work supports, and work supplements for childless adults is a good start.”

Carol Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University and editor of Debating Immigration, adds, “Although black people are affected disproportionately, I would like to hear people who debate immigration not focus exclusively on African Americans. If this is perceived as a ‘black’ problem, it’s not going to get the attention it needs. I hear people talking about immigrants coming here because they want the American dream. Well, I have a lot of relatives waiting for the American dream. Poor whites and legal immigrants are affected as well as blacks. That kind of gets lost in the debate.”

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