Many Blacks Split with Civil Rights Leaders on Immigration

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: May 13, 2010

The cameras homed in on the Reverend Al Sharpton as he led thousands to the Arizona state capitol building in Phoenix in an old fashioned, energetic, shouting, chanting, sign-carrying civil rights style march. The marchers demanded the repeal of Arizona’s hotly contested immigration law. Meanwhile, on the periphery of the march, a small band of counter protesters shouted, hooted, and hectored Sharpton and the other marchers. Their action drew almost no news mention. However, their counter-protest was different. They were mostly African American. The temptation is to laugh off their pro-SB 1070 countermarch as a comic sideshow. After all, Sharpton, President Obama, all major civil rights groups, the Congressional Black Caucus and nearly all local black Democratic state and local officials unequivocally champion immigration reform and oppose the Arizona law.

But many blacks don’t agree with them.

In fact, there is a quiet but glaring disconnect between civil rights leaders’ outspoken support for liberal immigration reform measures and the unease, wariness and outright antipathy that many blacks feel toward illegal immigration. That disconnect is evident in blog posts, chat rooms, Web sites, letters to newspaper editors, and radio talk shows. Many blacks blame illegal immigrants for the poverty and job dislocation in black communities.

A 2006 Pew Hispanic Center poll found that more blacks than whites say that illegal immigrants should not be denied education and services. But the tolerance ends when it comes to jobs. Far more blacks than whites agree that illegal immigrants take jobs away from blacks and claim to know someone who has lost a job because of illegal immigration.

The first big warning sign of black frustration with illegal immigration came during the battle over Proposition 187 in California in 1994. White voters voted by big margins for the proposition that denied public services to undocumented immigrants. More than half of blacks voted against the measure. But nearly fifty percent of black voters supported it.

Then Republican Gov. Pete Wilson shamelessly pandered to anti-immigrant hysteria and rode it to a reelection victory. Wilson got nearly 20 percent of the black vote in that election -- double what Republicans in California typically get from blacks. Wilson almost certainly bumped up his black vote total with his freewheeling assault on illegal immigration. Blacks also gave substantial support to anti-bilingual ballot measures in California.

Though there is furious dispute over the economic impact that the estimated 10 to 15 million undocumented immigrants in the United States have on the job market, there is no concrete evidence that the majority of employers hire Latinos at low-end jobs and exclude blacks from them solely because of their race. The sea of state and federal anti-discrimination laws explicitly ban employment discrimination. Despite a handful of lawsuits and settlements by blacks with major employers for alleged racial favoritism toward Hispanic workers, employers vehemently deny that they shun blacks, and maintain that blacks simply don't apply for these jobs.

These aren't just flimsy covers for discrimination. Many blacks will no longer work the low-skilled, menial factory, restaurant, and custodial jobs that they filled in decades past. The pay is too low, the work too hard, and the indignities too great. On the other hand, blacks that seek these jobs are often given a quick brush-off by employers. The subtle message is that blacks won't be hired, even if they do apply. An entire category of jobs at the bottom rung of American industry has been clearly marked as "Latino-only." That further deepens suspicion and resentment among blacks that illegal immigration is to blame for the economic misery of poor blacks.

A Pew Hispanic Center survey in 2008 found that tens of thousands of blacks were employed in the top occupational categories for undocumented workers (farming, maintenance, construction, food service, production and moving). The survey also found that a significant percent of meat-processing workers and janitors were black. Even more surprising, more than 10 percent of blacks were still involved in agriculture -- an area that is largely seen as the province of undocumented immigrants.

Illegal immigration then and now is not the prime reason so many poor young blacks are on the streets, and why some turn to gangs, guns and drug dealing to get ahead. A shrinking economy, savage state and federal government cuts, the elimination of job training programs, failing public schools, a soaring black prison population, and employment discrimination are still the major reasons for the grim employment prospects and poverty in inner-city black neighborhoods.

The group that shouted their pro-Arizona immigration law slogans at Sharpton was not much of a sideshow to the immigration march. But their message -- that civil rights leaders say one thing about immigration while many blacks feel another way about it -- is a sign that immigration draws a line in the sand even among blacks.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is "How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge" (Middle Passage Press). Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:

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User Comments

Chuckie on Jun 02, 2010 at 22:23:46 said:

Those comments were despicable. You would think that in this country, which is supposed to be "progressive" these racist neanderthals are still thriving. What is sad is that many on those posts agreed with some of these derisive comments. Some of those people are just disgusting.

Alpha Beto on Jun 02, 2010 at 22:15:57 said:

I hope all the blacks saw the comments made on the results of the Alabama Democrat Gubernatorial Primary, in which Arthur Davis lost. Look for it on yahoo, and tell me that there are enough hateful racists who still believe Blacks are just above animals, and you have to wonder the reasons they're trying to drive a wedge between the Blacks and Hispanics. It is the old divide and conquer. They try to destroy the Hispanics in Arizona, and the blacks in Alabama, get rid of as many minorities as you can, the rest they can handle.

reggie on May 28, 2010 at 00:16:14 said:

the real problem is the white business
community does not want to hire blacks
because they can- not control blacks the way
they can control Hispanics people

m.mead on May 24, 2010 at 16:14:31 said:

I don't care where the legal aliens came from. They are Americans now or declared foreign nationals. I want the illegal ones sent home at their expense. When you start with breaking a law why should I believe you will obey the law. And that stupid SOB of a presidente needs to do as he promised, make a better Mexico, and keep his judgements to himself. One day our leaders will follow the law and lock up the border as he swore to.

Tyler on May 21, 2010 at 12:59:07 said:

Can we please have 100 millions more "undocumented immigrants" from Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe South America and Asia here??? Better yet, just "don't count and don't ask" at the borders and ports. Please don't be such a racist by only let Mexicans in.

Alpha Beto on May 21, 2010 at 09:04:48 said:

Vicente, you made my point. I feel sorry for you. I understand what you're saying, but I've seen these attitudes change in the last 40 or so years. Latinos and Blacks should not foment hate towards each other, but as the great majority of their leaders understand, they must work together as they have worked on the past. Remember "Divided we Fall."

Martha on May 18, 2010 at 22:37:02 said:

Because the jobs picture is so bleak is the reason we are having this conversation.

No, illegals didn't take every job away from blacks and other Americans. Here are some other reasons for few jobs available now.

1.0 Some manufacturing left the US, starting during the Nixon Administration, moving south of the border to Mexico.

2.0 Some skills simply vanished due to automation.

3.0 Many legal temporary workers entered the US taking many jobs [not limited to hi-tech] from all Americans - usually for less pay or as a family package.
4.0 Many jobs have been shipped overseas - outsourced out of the country.
were shipped out side of the US.
5.0 Some jobs have been performed by prisoners with little or no money compensated to them but gains going to the corporations.
6.0 Overtime has been used to prevent hiring
7.0 Corporations sometimes share workers to prevent hiring - within similar industries.
9.0 Some work is performed on a volunteer basis or on an internship basis, thus
not counted as real jobs.

10.0 Then there is the trade factor. How does that work? Certain agreements are made resulting in less jobs for Americans.
This is a very complicated subject and so just take my word for it having an affect.

Are there more ways? Sure, but we need to stop. As I learned from Ross Perot people can't stand too much of this.

Good news: Some economic indicators appear to point to better times ahead.
President Obama even mentioned that the jobs picture is looking up, so maybe in the end we will all begin to exhale.

Vicente on May 17, 2010 at 22:36:13 said:

Nice! So instead of addressing the fact that Mexicans can't stand Blacks, "Alpha Beto" tries to stifle the the truth by throwing out the "hate" canard! Mexicans HATE Blacks, simple as that, and no amount of trying to cover it up is going to change that.

Como un "latino" negro, he escuchado a estos muy amables mexicanos hablar pestes de mi, nunca pensando que yo entendia todas sus babosadas. Pueden meterse la "igualdad" por el c*lo- la realidad es que odian a los negros.

Any Blacks that march with the Mexicans are digging their own graves...

Fred on May 17, 2010 at 21:34:00 said:

Yeah, I've seen many blacks marching with the Mexicans, in the 60's and the 2000's

Alpha Beto on May 17, 2010 at 21:32:22 said:

So now this is a forum for the trash like fretsforward, john, and someone posing as Vicente to spread their hate and lies. Please...blacks and Mexicans have worked together for equality, and were still working together the last I saw. These (fretsforward, john and Vicente) are pieces of crap only trying to spread their hate.

Vicente on May 16, 2010 at 15:39:20 said:

Too funny! Now the Mexicans want the Blacks as allies, when it suits their needs! The reality is that Mexicans have an extremely low opinion of Blacks, and as someone else pointed out, there are certain cities in LA county where Blacks are being "ethnically cleansed" by Mexican gang-bangers.

Mexicans commonly refer to Blacks as "mayates", which are black dung beatles! Yeah, "suffer together", my foot!

fretsward on May 16, 2010 at 14:06:52 said:

After millions of illegal aliens protested on May 1st in the streets of this nation (again) and demanded citizenship, threatened to attack Americans with shovels and axes, and now are suggesting a boycott of Arizona and racial profiling simply for dissenting against an illegal influx of criminals from Mexico.

The overwhelming majority of Americans of all races have expressed their disapproval for the tsunami of illegal aliens running rampant throughout our country, and the upcoming Amnesty pushed by the racist Illinois Congressman and Mexican loyalist, Luis Gutierrez. After all, Democrats have to pay the Hispanic community back for allowing illegal immigrants to vote in our elections (an offense that would get you a prison sentence in Mexico).

If you seek answers, just look to the “racist” groups like The National Council of La Raza (The Race), MeCHA, LULAC, immoral Los Angeles mayor Tony Villar, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, loyal to Mexico and its people first city council, state Senate, and a terrorist group called the “Mexica Movement.” Their official platform says:
“We totally reject all illegal European Colonial Squatter Occupation Borders on our continent. We also reject Colonialism’s right to keep stealing the wealth of our lands. And we reject their artificial divisions of our people!” This is a group that thinks America is their property, and anyone who doesn’t fit their description should leave the country. What it also means is this is a hateful, and terrorist separationist group, and it should be dealt with. Of course, we will be the Nazis.

What Americans are fed up with are the millions upon millions of people who come here illegally, do not want to assimilate or learn the language. People who send their earnings “home” to another country. People who are turning 2 bedroom apartments and single family homes into illegal camps housing up to 100. People who are stealing I.Ds and Social Security numbers from American taxpayers.

People who are turning entire neighborhoods and city sections into Tijuana’s, where half the store signs advertise “llanteras usadas.”
People who are killing American citizens at the rate of 27 per day through murder, drunk driving, etc. People who expect and demand their kids to be taught in Spanish, and don’t care what we Americans think. People who since 2000 have desecrated our National border parks with 45+ million tons of trash.

People who drive illegally without auto insurance or set enough aside to cover their liabilities. People who use our expensive hospital emergency rooms as their cold and sniffle clinics. The real complaint here is that those “lazy Americans” who “follow the laws” find themselves increasingly squeezed and taxed, fingerprinted and regulated and licensed and strip-searched, while the illegals and their ilk thumb their noses, disregard our wishes, and give the finger to our laws.

Why would they want “reform” of laws they’ve shown no intention of obeying? What they really want is “belly up immigration surrender” – free instant citizenship rights to all government welfare benefits for any of their people who can get here.

Why is it dangerous that we can’t discuss these things frankly in the open, without crippling euphemisms that disguise what this is really about?

Every 3 months, a population the size of Tallahassee, FL pours across our southern border. They are not “undocumented,” or “immigrants.” They are illegal aliens. Period.

In 1997, pres Zedillioo proclaimed “I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders.” MALDEF founder Mario Obledo stated, “California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn’t like it should leave. Every constitutional office in California is going to be held by Hispanics in the next 20 years.” People who don’t like such demographic changes “should go back to Europe.” They see the US as lands they claim is theirs.

Why do American public officials (or many of it’s naive citizens) value so little what thousands have fought and died to protect?

A foreign power has stated its plans to conquer this nation by demographic warfare.

They call it Reconquista.

Why is the Hispanic/Latino agenda taking precedence over the future and direction of our country, and constantly being forced down our throats?

It’s because the most dispicable, worthless, obnoxious, immoral, indignant, corrupt, greedy, wreckless, parasitic, and underlying ideologically maligned country and it’s people insist we do so for their benefit alone…

Martha on May 15, 2010 at 09:17:58 said:

Actually those low paying jobs would have gone to American teens.

Look at various fast food places you will find most jobs filled with non African-Americans.

Unemployment rates for African-American teens is off the charts.

Another reason blacks do not work in many fast food restaurants is the difficulty in learning a new language.
[Spanish is becoming the dominant language in L.A.]
Also jobs are not offered to blacks, since most of these jobs are run by families or in the case of the Beauty Supply Houses are run by immigrants based on obtaining citizenship if they set up certain businesses in the U.S. but most appear in black areas. This brings with it some resentment from African-Americans, since they pay dearly for the higher priced goods, but are not offered employment.
Before accepting statistics from Research Centers first read "How To Lie With Statistics"
What does the word "black" mean to PEW?
Thousands mean what to PEW?

Roberto Rodriguez on May 15, 2010 at 06:30:48 said:


The most powerful element of this story and phenomenon is the following:

"An entire category of jobs at the bottom rung of American industry has been clearly marked as "Latino-only." That further deepens suspicion and resentment among blacks that illegal immigration is to blame for the economic misery of poor blacks."

Being subjected to the bottom rung of the economy ensures misery. Thus, whoever is at the bottom, enjoys economic exploitation and misery. Undocumented immigrants are simply subjected to low wages. With it includes being subjected to extreme forms of exploitation, including no labor or human rights. It is living in shadows, in fear, one call and one raid from being separated not simply from their jobs, but from their home and family.

This column, while better than most on this topic, still project that somehow, these workers that are being super-exploited and living dehumanized existences, are somehow favored and responsible for other peoples' miseries.

Employers in fact, do favor them... in the sense that they are much more easier to exploit -- whether physically, sexually -- and being able to employ them without rights of any kind whatsoever.

The education that needs to happen is that scapegoating and the politics of blame works with all groups -- including among Latinos. Virtually no one is immune.

As I noted, the key to this column is that the bottom rung -- not the middle rung or the top rung -- of the economy is reserved for "Latino-Only." The question is, reserved by whom? Never mind the fact that the resentment is supposed to be directed at "illegal aliens" yet, the resentment appears to be directed also at "Latinos" in general. And yet, the real odius part of the equation is rather than focusing on why African Americans continue to be exploited and dehumanized by a supremacist sociey, instead, there is a stated an unstated assertion that somehow, the bottom rung of the economy should instead be reserved for African Americans. I'm not sure that this merits any further comment. But I do know that this writer has always done fantastic work in the realm of race relations, etc. Look forward to dialogue in the future.

Actually, there is one other thing: Is it really that African American civil rights leaders are out of touch (disconnected) with their own community, or is it that it shows the need for further education amongst all peoples about what it truly means to be human in this society?

Martha on May 14, 2010 at 11:55:32 said:

This is not a suffer together situation.
Being undocumented means that you are not counted as part of the US job statistics.

Undocumented and temporary foreign workers [from India and other countries who have taken over hi tech US jobs] are not counted in 9.9% reported for April 2010.

Should we care when an undocumented worker is out of work ?

Should we care when temporary workers from Canada, India and other places become unemployed or lose their temporary status?

No one known the number of these workers in the US.

"In this together" is meaningless except for politicians and those who support the political machine.

Reported unemployment for the month of April 2010 [from the BLS] was 9.9%.
Actual rate is more like
19.0% of the labor force - not counting undocumented workers and foreign temporary workers.
Source: BLS statistical tables

If you were to look at Table A-2. Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age you will gleam that African-Americans had the following rates for April 2010:
16.5% for all African-Americans
18.0% for African American men
13.7% for African American women
37.3% for African-American teens

It you "add" a slush percentage of 10%
you may have a more accurate rate for African-American unemployment rates in the US:
thus to arrive at a closer predicted true rate you would get approximately:
26.5% for all African-Americans
28.0% for African American men
23.7% for African American women
47.3% for African-American teens
according to a monthly UN report on the BLS numbers.


John on May 14, 2010 at 03:09:54 said:

Everyone knows that criminals fugitive aliens from mexico are completely displacing blacks, not just in stealing their jobs but through overt ethnic cleansing. They target random black citizens for rape, murder and random mayhem to drive them from neighborhoods. They've been successful to a large degree.

So yeah, it's totally understandable that blacks would turn against Sharpton....a man who has spent his life selling out the black cause to line his own pockets and never once really represented black interests.

Javier on May 13, 2010 at 22:40:16 said:

No one believes that the undocumented are taking jobs from the Blacks. The blacks and the Mexican-Americans are the first unemployed when hard times hit the economy, but they suffer together.




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