Back of the Hiring Line Book

BACK of the

by Roy Beck

A 200-year history of immigration surges, employer bias, and depression of Black wealth


Table of Contents
Chapter 1

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All sides can learn from Roy Beck . . . Beck presents a powerful argument that immigration hurts America’s working poor”


Always balanced and never strident . . .Perhaps most cogent is his discussion of the negative impacts immigration has had, historically and contemporaneously, on Black Americans”


. . .  fosters serious debate rather than name-calling . . . [analyses are] presented carefully and dispassionately and deserve serious answers”


. . . as persuasively as anyone, he states the case and marshals the evidence for restricting the high levels of legal immigration”


. . . puts the argument in terms that liberals can relate to”


. . . a powerful—indeed, nearly overwhelming—case against the status quo”


Beck documents the way employers have used cheap immigrant labor to slash pay or worsen working conditions in blue-collar jobs”


. . . a forceful re-examination of the oft-held assumption that we should continue the open door immigration policy that has been in effect since the 1970s. When I began the book I was inclined to support current policy. Having read it, I’m inclined to change my mind. . . . He argues that the aims of the 1960s Great Society programs . . . have all been undermined by one policy: liberal immigration laws”


Roy Howard Beck, a native of the Ozarks, was grateful to be able to pay his full way through the University of Missouri School of Journalism with wages  earned during eight tight-labor-era years in first-rung jobs in the occupations of production-line factory welding, bridge construction, hay harvesting, roofing, landscaping, and as a recreation counselor in an inner-urban Boys Club, an office assistant, and a runner in door-to-door milk delivery. Reporting at newspapers in Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Texas, he encountered the urban unrest of the late 1960s, the Great Society’s programs on poverty, racial integration, and urban development in the 1970s, and the growing economic disparities of the 1980s and 1990s, filing reports from dozens of states and 10 countries of Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. He was the Chief Washington Correspondent of the Booth chain of daily newspapers during consideration and passage of the 1990 immigration act. One of his magazine and journal articles (in the Atlantic Monthly) was chosen by the Encyclopedia Britannica for its Annals of America as one of the most important writings about the United States during the 1990s. Roy is president of the bipartisan NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation which he founded after civil rights icon Barbara Jordan’s death in 1996 in part to educate on her recommendations and findings as chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform

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Back Cover Text


While most Americans justifiably celebrate Ellis Island ancestors, here are the stories of what the long period of mass immigration after the Civil War meant to freed slaves, their children and grandchildren in the hiring lines of America: decades of delays in gaining industrial job experience, skills and career connections, and constant setbacks in accumulating and transferring wealth.

Average Black household wealth in the 21st century is only a fraction of the wealth of other racial ethnic groups, including recent immigrants. There are many reasons. This book is about one of them: periodic sustained immigration surges over the last two centuries.

This is a little-told story of the struggles of freed slaves and their descendants to climb job ladders in the eras of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Barbara Jordan, and other African American Leaders who advocated tight-labor migration policies. It is a great history of bitter disappointment and, occasionally, of great hope.

Linda Beck