Democrats' Immigration Dogma is Damaging African-American Communities | Opinion

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) speaks while flanked by African-American religious and civic leaders after a meeting at the Freddie Gray Youth Empowerment Center, December 8, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland Mark Wilson/Getty Images

If you're a Democrat and you question the party orthodoxy on immigration, prepare to be excommunicated.

That's the grim lesson of a recent fracas involving Our Revolution, the progressive advocacy group founded by Senator Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution just fired its "National Justice" director after she publicly pointed out that excessive immigration can hurt low-wage American workers. The staffer, Tezlyn Figaro, a woman of African-American and Latinx descent, took to Twitter to complain about foreigners "coming into the country and getting benefits that Americans do not get."

Figaro voiced an uncomfortable truth, and her dismissal reveals a stunning hypocrisy at the heart of modern Democratic politics. The party claims to champion the economic well-being of black and Hispanic Americans. Yet it also supports unfettered immigration, which, according to a vast amount of economic literature—including a report by the National Academy of Sciences—depresses wages and reduces job opportunities for minority American workers.

Immigrants—both legal and illegal—tend to congregate in large cities and take positions in the unskilled workforce. In fact, so many immigrants who lack high school diplomas have come to the U.S. in the past 20 years that they've increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by 25 percent.

That puts them in direct competition with African-Americans, who disproportionately occupy the low-wage urban labor market. Work from the eminent Harvard economist George Borjas shows that when immigration increases the size of the labor pool by 10 percent, wages for African American men drop 2.5 percent—and their employment rate declines by nearly 6 percent.

Likewise, a 2010 report from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission concluded that African American men are "more likely to be in labor competition with immigrants." Commissioner Peter Kirsanow emphasized how this competition can effectively lock young workers out of the job market: "You eliminate the rungs on the ladder because a sizable number of African American men don't have access to entry-level jobs."

Blind support for unfettered immigration seems at odds with Democrats' policy priorities. This party has, admirably, been at the forefront of the campaign to reform the criminal justice system. Policies such as mandatory minimum sentences, for example, have deeply damaged African-American communities, dooming millions of African-American men and women to long prison sentences for non-violent crimes.

Democrats can't be champions for African-Americans when they advocate for endless immigration amnesties. This includes their support for "sanctuary cities," which stymie the deportation of dangerous criminals and their opposition to mandatory worker verification enforcement.

Just last month, a number of high-profile Democratic mayors, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, pulled out of an immigration meeting with President Trump in retaliation for the administration's crackdown on sanctuary cities.

Pointing out the damage done by free-flowing foreign labor wasn't condemned by leading Democratic politicians. Not long ago, left-leaning lawmakers frequently called for common sense limits on immigration.

Back in the early 1990s, Barbara Jordan, a civil rights icon and the first African-American woman from the South elected to Congress, publicly proclaimed that there was "no national interest in continuing to import lesser skilled and unskilled workers to compete in the most vulnerable parts of our labor force." She called for cutting immigration by a third.

About a decade later, a prominent Democratic senator warned that a "huge influx of mostly low-skill workers... threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans."

That senator was Barack Obama, writing in his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope.

Around the same time, Paul Krugman, a liberal Nobel Prize-winning economist who is widely known for his regular New York Times columns, openly acknowledged that "the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is . . . pretty clear." And Jason Furman, the former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, has acknowledged that the average Democrat "thinks very little about any potential downsides" of immigration.

The Democratic Party's newly developed opposition to any and all curbs on immigration could ultimately wreck the party's electoral fortunes. Democratic leaders can't claim to care about black and Hispanic Americans while supporting immigration policies that rob their most loyal voters of jobs and wages.

Tom Broadwater is president of Americans4Work, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of American minority, veteran, youth, and disabled workers.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​