IN THE NEWS:
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Black leaders were some of the most prominent advocates for reducing immigration levels. Leaders like Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass understood that welcoming millions of immigrants — then mostly Europeans — only set the wages of less-skilled workers on a race to the bottom.
When the U.S. labor market finally tightened from 1940 to 1980, due in large part to closely-controlled immigration levels, Black male incomes grew by 400%, as immigration policy expert Roy Beck points out in his recently-released book, Back of the Hiring Line. That staggering increase outpaced even that of White men, whose incomes rose by 250% over those 40 years. This momentous progress towards economic equity was underway even before the passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
As immigration levels ramped up again in the 1980s and 1990s, however — eventually reaching roughly four times what they were before 1965 — relative Black wages went in the opposite direction. Today, most of the mid-century progress America made against the racial wage gap has been lost.
Both major parties bear responsibility for this reversal. The bipartisan Immigration Act of 1990, which increased the country’s annual immigration cap overnight, was enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed into law by a Republican president. Even now, members of both parties are pushing to increase the overall level of immigration.