Black lawmakers at a recent House hearing accused Republicans of attempting to ignite racial friction, following GOP claims that illegal immigrants in the U.S. take jobs from African-Americans, the Associated Press reported.
The hearing on illegal immigrants and their impact on minorities was held March 1.
“I am concerned by the majority’s attempt to manufacture tension between African-Americans and immigrant countries,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement, according to the AP. “It seems as though they would like for our communities to think about immigration in terms of ‘us versus them,’ and I reject that notion.”
Critics also said Republicans disregarded their own failure to support affirmative action, job training, college financial and other programs tailored for minority employment.
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) explained his belief that those most affected by the surge in the number of illegal alien workers are low-skilled workers.
“Our focus should be on ensuring every…American who is willing to work has a job instead of jobs with foreign laborers,” Gallegly said at the hearing, according to the AP. “Immigrants often compete for jobs with low-income laborers.”
According to The San Antonio Express, Republicans also supported their claims with statements from George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party. Rodriguez said he witnessed illegal immigrants travel across the Rio Grande and take jobs from American workers at a local print shop. He added that his father helped to establish a printer’s union to defeat competition and wage cutting due to Mexican immigrants.
“Most Mexican-Americans feel we must do something to stop aliens from entering the country illegally and taking jobs from Americans using false documentation,” Rodriguez told the panel, according to the Express.
U.S. Census data and research from the Pew Hispanic Center found that, in 2009, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million. However, Wade Henderson, chairman and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told the AP that high unemployment among African-Americans has an array of causes other than competition from immigrants, including inequitable opportunities in education, housing and criminal justice.