Why Blacks March Against Illegal Immigration—And Why They Shouldn’t

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Jun 21, 2007

Traducción al español

Editor's Note: In the last 15 years, many African Americans have supported anti-immigration measures in states such as California and Arizona. Fueled by a soaring unemployment rate among African-American men, anti-immigrant sentiment among blacks is understandable, argues NAM editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson, but the blame is misdirected. Hutchinson is the author of “The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African Americans and Hispanics,” to be published in October 2007.

The buzz on the June 23 march against illegal immigration in Los Angeles is that it’s a historic event. It’s the first time Los Angeles, or any city, for that matter, has issued an official permit for blacks to march against illegal immigration.

The march, as far as it is known, was planned and organized by black activists. Though the march is unique, blacks have been loudly protesting illegal immigration since it became a stormy national issue and ripped apart Congress last year.

In May 2006, an odd assemblage of writers, preachers, a homeless rights advocate, professional anti-immigration advocates, and a few local black community residents from the Washington, D.C., area grabbed some camera time with a press conference. They called themselves Choose Black America and claimed that the overwhelming majority of black Americans agreed with them that illegal immigration was the prime threat to blacks.

This was hardly a spontaneous gathering of public-spirited blacks who were outraged at the impact of illegal immigration, and neither was their red-hot rhetoric against the bill.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform paid for the airfare, hotel accommodations and other expenses for most of the participants as well as the rental fee for the press conference. The organization has long demanded the toughest possible immigration laws and the tightest possible border control.

But the participants in the conference had made their point that there are a few noted blacks who are willing to put their bodies and faces in front of a camera in opposition to immigration reform, and that they weren’t scared of being branded bigots in the process.

Their Washington, D.C., flutter was the high water mark for blacks against immigration. With the eventual death of the immigration reform bill in Congress, the group quickly vanished from the public’s radar.

However, when the Senate briefly resuscitated the bill in April, black immigration opponents got a new lease on life. The Los Angeles march will give them another chance to tap into the ambivalence, frustration, unease and even anger among many blacks over illegal immigration.

The signs that illegal immigration touched a sore nerve in many blacks have been there all along. The first big warning sign of black frustration with illegal immigration came during the battle over Proposition 187 in California in 1994. White voters supported by big margins the proposition that denied public services to undocumented immigrants. But nearly 50 percent of blacks also backed the measure.

Republican Gov. Pete Wilson shamelessly pandered to anti-immigrant hysteria and rode it to a re-election victory. Wilson also got nearly 20 percent of the black vote in the 1994 election. It was double what Republicans in California typically get from blacks. Wilson almost certainly bumped up his black vote with his freewheeling assault on illegal immigration.

Blacks have also given substantial support to anti-bilingual ballot measures in California.

More than a decade later, black attitudes toward illegal immigrants (almost always seen as Latino) was put to the electoral test in Arizona with another ballot initiative. Proposition 200 mandated tough sanctions on employers for hiring illegal immigrants, as well as tighter border enforcement. Exit polls showed that more than 65 percent of blacks backed the measure. As with Proposition 187 in California a decade before, it passed by a landslide.

The black vote on anti-illegal immigration bills and their antipathy to illegal immigration as measured by the polls fly in the face of the staunch support that mainstream civil rights organizations and most of the Congressional Black Caucus have given to the passage of comprehensive, liberal immigration reform. It even contradicts polls that showed that blacks backed liberal immigration reform by big margins during last year’s great immigration debate.

Yet the kicker in those polls was the issue of jobs. Blacks expressed deep worry that they were slipping further behind in the battle for more jobs. That’s a legitimate fear. Blacks suffer the highest rate of unemployment of any group in America. The job crisis has had an especially devastating impact on young, marginally skilled and educated black males. In the eternal hunt for scapegoats for the job crisis, illegal immigration is the easiest of targets.

But that’s wrong-headed, misguided and fraught with peril. The prime causes of chronic black unemployment are corporate downsizing, outsourcing, the massive cuts in federal and state job skills training funds and programs, the reluctance and flat-out refusal of many employers to hire those with criminal records, and the sneaky but open racial discrimination by private employers.

None of that matters to the rabid black immigration reform foes. For now, they’re banking that the horror some blacks feel about illegal immigration will be enough to propel a few souls into the streets in Los Angeles on June 23. They hope they’ll be cheered on by many more who won’t march. No matter what happens, though, they’ve done a great job in further polarizing blacks and Latinos.

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User Comments

Linda on Aug 14, 2007 at 10:26:14 said:

I'm against illegal immigration as well. And its time all Americans stand together against this problem with our country. These illegals mainly from Mexico are ruining our country. They are not trying to fit in. Spanish billboards, spanish on every business phone call you make, on every product you buy and ELL in our schools. Schools are overrun with Mexicans therefore our tax dollars keep going for more schools and more ELL teachers. And they don't pay a dime for our schools. Enough is enough. This is America. We speak english in America. Traitor Americans need to stop giving them jobs, renting to them and supporting them in any way.

Anytime someone comes to your country and starts businesses in their

Derek on Aug 11, 2007 at 17:25:50 said:

I am also an African American I totally agree with many of you that illegal immigration is wrong. As American citizen we cannot allow these people to come to our country without our permission, I can’t get over these people sense of entitlement. I’m also disappointed in the so called African American leadership of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, these two men have been in the bed with the pro illegal group trying to make it about civil rights. Somebody please tell those two that the people that are supporting are breaking our laws and they are not citizens so what rights do they have in this country. I wonder how the Mexican government (not a denial that there are other illegal immigrant here from other countries) would feel if the U.S. government sent 12 million poor Americans to there country. I wonder would they get social benefits, would they be granted citizenship, something tells me no.

Daniel Hughes on Jul 29, 2007 at 15:39:41 said:

Great site. I agree with all of you except for the fools who believe that illegal immigration is okay, or it's some white plot to keep blacks subjugated. Trust me, it isn't: I'm a white guy, and i despise the illegals as much as you do. It is not just the rights of blacks that are in jeopardy because of the Hispanic invasion; it's the rights of all American citizens! Except for 99% of the politicians (who think they will be the next "ruling class") and the fuckers who hire the illegals, who probably think the same thing.
I want the border closed and the ones who are here rounded up into concentration camps and methodically deported, and their illegally-gotten, tax-free assets can be seized to help offset the expense. When will our elected leaders wake up and begin this process? If they don't do it soon, I expect that we the people will have to do it for them!

J. Brown on Jun 26, 2007 at 13:58:58 said:

I agree with you. Asians notice that Hispanics do not hire any but their own race in their restaurants and other businesses. Call your local college and ask if they are doing any investigative research on hiring practices of Hispanic-owned businesses. I'll bet, you will get nowhere. No answers.
Apparently, racism is not considered a punishable crime in Mexico.
Of course, being an illegal alien in Mexico is a very punishable crime! We just can't have the same laws here. Here, the same laws are considered INHUMANE.

FatMan on Jun 22, 2007 at 17:53:26 said:


Go ahead and start a fight...YOU WILL LOSE...and you KNOW it!!!

Then...you can cry "racism" on the internet!!!

Did you see those "Juneteenth" racial attacks on non blacks in Milwakuee and Austin???

You are just mad because you KNOW that if you pull that **** in Los Angeles or even Phoenix...YOU wil get your asses STOMPED!!!

TOUGH ****

Bob on Jun 22, 2007 at 10:41:20 said:

IT'S ABOUT TIME. VOTE FOR TANCREDO. As an African American I greatly applaud this movement. Although I canot be there, I will be there in heart, soul & mind. It's not a racial issue but the latinos honchos have longed equated their invation with the black plight. Trying to win us over with such things as America is a nation of immigrants. Let me tell you. African Americans are not immigrants & never were. Our ancestors were uprooted from our continent & brought here where we paid for our existence with tears, fears, blood & sweat. After several hundreds of years our white fathers then had the just conscience to emancipate us without severance numeration. Thus, we have persevered without welfare,living alongside our white brothers and if they are racist, then we, too are racists when it come to illegal aliens.

Erik Kengaard on Jun 22, 2007 at 09:14:22 said:

Mark is probably right. There are plenty of jobs - at low pay. Go into almost any large retail store and you will see help wanted signs.

Erik Kengaard on Jun 22, 2007 at 09:11:23 said:

Many who oppose illegal immigration just calculate that there are more than enough people in the country to support a viable economy and a quality of life. The carrying capacity of the land and infrastructure are stressed.
Fewer people would make for a better quality of life. This was recognized in the 1960s (zero population growth).
A nation that does not protect its borders will cease to be a nation. There is sound logic in "territorial imperative." The Founders recognized this when they assigned to congress the power to prohibit migration after 1808 [article 1, section 9] and the power "to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" [article 1, scetion 8]. The Founders were well versed in history and understood that one reason the Roman Empire fell was that it ceased to be Roman.
Diane is right in her characterization of Earl. His commentary is an extremely biased polemic.

Mark Lewis on Jun 22, 2007 at 03:04:52 said:

Globalizaton is the prime reason the Bush administration has thrown open the doors to a steady supply of cheap labor that American companies can use to remain competitive without incuring the expense of moving their operations, and anyone who doesn't see that is simply naive. Obviously this is harming blacks at the low end of the wage scale. At this point however, the genie's out of the bottle, so what we ought to be doing NOW is educating young African Americans to do more than compete with immigrants who can't speak English. Let's build on the strengths of the black community...the growth of the black middle class, the meteoric rise of black female entrepreneurs who need to get to the next level, and the inherant instinct among black business people to build commercial enterprises based on social entrepreneurship and using business to drive community impact.

The good news is that black business leaders are the new civil rights movers and shakers in this borderless economy, where political power is the natural outgrowth of economic empowerment, and it's nothing new.

Booker T. Washington said this a hundred years ago.

Gary Thornton on Jun 21, 2007 at 23:44:08 said:

Black Americans should oppose illegal immigration for the same reasons we oppose illegal discrimination in employment and housing...because it is illegal. Illegal immigration is illegal because it is not in the best interests of our nation (whether we are black, brown, or white) to have out-of-control immigration. Following your logic, would you propose that we rewrite our housing and employment discrimination laws because a large number of yahoos are out there breaking the law? Should we just give in and grant them amnesty?

Andy on Jun 21, 2007 at 21:17:55 said:

There is no humantism. Blacks give too much weigh to racial discrimination. Are they not racial decriminator to other comunities. This is only the show of racial dis.; If a army man dies for Amarica. Why press and people have to raise the voice to not to deport his illegal wife living in USA. (Army Spec. Alex Jimenez, ).

Callie on Jun 21, 2007 at 15:32:43 said:

It's always interesting to me that pro-illegal advocates feel it necessary to point out organizations who fund anti-illegal marches; however, they never seem to feel the same compunctions about revealing who is behind all of the pro-illegal rallies. They would have you think they are all "spontaneous." The truth is that they are also sponsored by highly organized entities: labor unions, churches, Socialist organizations, and various ethnocentric groups. La Raza itself receives funding from both wealthy Socialists AND American corporations. Does the fact that a grass roots group of people receive some funding to accomplish their goals delegitimize those goals? Stop the double standards.

This is not a left/right issue. This is an American issue. Americans of all races, ethnicities, and political stripes are coming together to demand that our government secure our borders and enforce the immigration law. This is something that any citizen of any country has the right to expect.

Negro Voice on Jun 21, 2007 at 13:33:37 said:

It is all about white supremacists feeling the heat from the minorities. If they were concerned about black people's conditions, they had about 3 centuries to address that issue, but they did not. Blacks and latinos should refuse to be divided by a white class that only cares about its so-called "God-given" privileges. Wake up, people! Minorities need to mature and get together in order to weight more on the political and economical balance. Blacks should refuse to be used as a tool against any minority that comes into this country. Enough is enough.

Bodi on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:52:40 said:

You hit it on the head when you discussed why Blacks would still be losing in the market place even without illegal immigrants. The truth is, no Black (nor White) would take the jobs that even legal Latin American immigrants take. The vegetable and fruit picking in 100 degree heat, the dirty kitchen prep work, the demeaning janitorial work, the low status gardening work, etc., are places only the legal and illegal Latin American will and do work. They serve as America's slaves and outcastes. Blacks will certainly NOT do their menial labor. These topics are highly political and serve to inflame and divide us. We are played like pawns.

james on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:35:16 said:

I am so SICK of people thinking we are stupid
people. African Americans bring a lot to this country Now we are Suppose to except this NO !! Never it hard enough t6o get jobs as is !!!

Bob Roberts on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:35:42 said:

Earl, You talk of polarizing Blacks and Latino's. Race, Race, Race.
Maybe you should stop dividing us by color. The story here is that Black, White, Latino and Asian Americans are coming together to try to preserve and protect our nation from being over run by millions of illegal aliens. The ethnicity of the illegal aliens is irrelevant. If the Ted Kennedy/John McCain/George Bush Amnesty passes Congress, it will be an open invitation to the next wave. How will your rhetoric hold up to tens of millions of Chinese illegal aliens?

Gene on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:33:57 said:

“prime causes of chronic black unemployment are corporate downsizing, outsourcing,” – are you insane! The US unemployment rate is below 5%. The main problem is there are greedy business owners who are hiring illegal aliens (call them what they are) at substandard wages and cutting out Americans who deserve the job at a decent wage to raise their families. Both Prop 187 and 200 passed because Americans were sick of working to pay taxes that illegal aliens are abusing. Your comment “the sneaky but open racial discrimination by private employers” can only refer to the hiring practices of the greedy employers who would rather have an illegal alien at a substandard wage rather then an American at a standard wage.

John Creasy on Jun 21, 2007 at 09:01:31 said:

"None of that matters to the rabid black immigration reform foes"

I've read some of your articles and I've never seen you use "rabid" or any other visceral disparaging name for latino individuals or organizations, so why such strong language directed at African Americans?! To me, Ofari, you are a sell-out and a shill for the latino illegal immigration lobby/movement. I used to greatly admire/respect you, but now I'm having second thoughts. The illegal immigration, bottomline, after all is said and done, will have serious immediate and long term socio-political, cultural and economic consequences for African Americans...and well you and latinos know this.

Diane Canfield on Jun 21, 2007 at 08:58:42 said:

Hooray for the Blacks. more people including blacks and whites should organize marches and march agaisnt the illegals!!! No U.S. citizen wants them here only he governement wants them here! They do nothing for united states citizens except get on the welfare rolls with their anchor babies!Look at California its ruined now because of them!

Mark on Jun 21, 2007 at 08:49:34 said:

I live in Phoenix, I'm black and I do not care what latinos think. I have been denied work twice because I am not mexican. I know this because they where bold enough to tell me in the interview. We paid a price in America with our blood. We still are fighting. I go to jail when I break a law, why don't they? America is importing 3rd world racism. If they come and refuse to assimilate as they say, we will have to start our fight all over again. You see mexicans working from soul food kitchens to sushi bars but you never see a Black Person in a mexican business. If it was not for Malcolm X and Martin Luther King mexicans would still be picking fruit. We should fight and we will.




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