On immigration, who is considering black workers?

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Arlene Jones

Currently there is an interesting "debate" going on in some Congressional hearings between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Republicans. As we all "know," the CBC are the "good guys" and the Republicans are "bad guys." So in an intensive debate between these two groups, the CBC, which represents the interests of black folks, and the Republicans, who represent the interests of other folks, which one do you think you would agree with without even knowing the subject? The CBC or the Republicans? Decide now.

I'll tell you the subject in a moment. It is a topic I have very strong opinions about. But rather than impose my beliefs and knowledge up front, I want you to form your own opinion based on your own observations, experiences and thoughts. Plus, I sure wish you folks would do more opinion writing on the Internet or pen a letter to the editor. That way my editors and I can get a better understanding of what the average person who reads this column is thinking. Anyway, I digress.

The subject causing a lot of consternation between the CBC and the Republicans? Illegal immigration and its impact on American minorities. One group's stance is that illegal immigration has had a devastating effect on the employment options of black folks (especially those who are unskilled, like teenagers, drop-outs and ex-offenders) while the others say there is no conclusive evidence that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from African Americans. OK. Which side are you on? Pick now because try as I might to resist, I am going to give an opinion.

I still remember the 1996 election and Bill Clinton talking about McJobs with a black guy who was the head of a major fast food chain. I still remember those huge yellow HELP WANTED signs that would hang outside of McDonald's. I may be wrong, but it sure seems like the more folks we have in this country illegally, the more those signs no longer appear. And just how does a teenager trying to get his/her first job compete against grown men and women who are now the majority of the work force at many fast food restaurants? And if the restaurant is right in the middle of the black community and nobody black works there, well ...

Who remembers all the fights to get black folks on construction jobs? We were told we had to have union cards and journeymen training. There were groups like C-BUC and Workshop Coalition. Well, we're still not on the construction job sites. So how is it that those sites are now filled with people who cannot speak English yet are working while black folks stand on the sidelines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, the CBC is the one saying there is no proof that illegal immigration is hurting the black community. The Republicans, on the other hand, are stating that they want every U.S. citizen who wants a job to have one instead of pandering to foreign laborers.

I was listening to the radio the other night and they were talking about illegal immigration - why so many black politicians seem to be in a disconnect with their constituents on this issue. The man on the radio made an excellent point. Politicians in Washington get lobbied on issues all the time by both sides. When it comes to immigration, only those on the side of illegal immigration are lobbying. It will be up to the average citizen to tell their elected representatives how they feel. Plus, ask them if those same illegal aliens are paying state income taxes? Many who are here illegally will file a federal return to hedge their bets against the day that "reform" may become available, and they can prove they paid their federal taxes. But the state, which provides tons of services to them, isn't getting them to file because generally they will owe money.

Some of the CBC members accused the Republicans of trying to create black-brown tensions. But when the browns are working and the blacks aren't, there isn't much of a coalition to begin with. Even Cesar Chavez marched on the southern border because he understood better than most what uncontrolled illegal immigration will do to this country.

I don't think any of us are naïve enough to believe that Republicans are suddenly concerned about black folks and unemployment. But a broke clock can be right twice a day, and on this one I am standing with the Republicans. For me the issue is simple. Both the CBC and Republicans should place U.S. citizens and their needs, wants, desires and problems at the forefront before they concern themselves with foreign nationals.

www.arlenejones.blogspot.com

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