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Published June 6, 2022

Remain in Mexico Was Protecting American Workers. Will Biden Betray Them Again? | Opinion

– Pamela Denise Long

Back in 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research highlighted the toll that mass immigration has taken. Their white paper found that the immigrant influx from 1980-2000 could be tied to a 20-60 percent decline in Black wages, a 25 percent decline in employment, and a 10 percent rise in incarceration for Black Americans with a high school degree or less.

And the issue hasn't been solved. A 2008 briefing from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that illegal immigration in recent decades "has tended to depress both wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men." And even the ambitions of college-educated Black Americans are being disrupted by immigrants using H-1 B visas.

Judging from the policy they endorse, it appears our representatives and employers would rather incarcerate ambitious descendants of U.S. slaves while employing and training millions of foreigners.

Some may be tempted to think migration only affects Black Americans. But the reality is that the costs of goods and essential services, like housing and education, rise due to demand. The wages of all Americans are depressed by competition with a flood of immigrant labor—both skilled and unskilled. As Roy Beck notes in his book Back of the Hiring Line, when national policy reduced immigration to less than 500,000 per year between 1940-1980, "the real incomes of white males expanded two-and one-half fold. The Black middle class grew from 22 percent of African Americans to 71 percent."

Oh, how times have changed for descendants of slaves.

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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