John Lewis, a Civil Rights leader of the 1960s who became a Member of Congress, died two weeks ago. I hope it is not too soon to wonder whether he was actually working against the interests of the people whom he claimed to be helping.
From his 2011 press release:
“I am a very proud member of the Congressional Black Caucus,” said Rep. John Lewis. “Throughout my quarter century in Congress, the CBC has been a tireless, consistently progressive voice, always advocating for and insisting upon inclusion as a mandate of our democracy. The CBC is a powerful and seasoned advocate for African-Americans and all people who have been left out and left behind in this country.”
Was Mr. Lewis actually an advocate for the interests of African-Americans?
In his role as a member of Congress, Lewis was a reliable advocate for increased low-skill immigration. Example: 2018 press release. He voted “no” on Donald Trump’s border wall and was rated 0% by two organizations that seek to restrict immigration (ontheissues.org).
One reason, the authors argue, is that black employment is more sensitive to an immigration influx than white employment. For white men, an immigration boost of 10 percent caused their employment rate to fall just 0.7 percentage points; for black men, it fell 2.4 percentage points.
That same immigration rise was also correlated with a rise in incarceration rates. For white men, a 10 percent rise in immigration appeared to cause a 0.1 percentage point increase in the incarceration rate for white men. But for black men, it meant a nearly 1 percentage-point rise.
In other words, Mr. Lewis was a thoroughly modern U.S. politician. Thanks to BLM, Black Americans (and their white “allies”?) can choose their statues, but immigrants will take their jobs, compete with them for rental apartments and public housing, space and resources in the public schools, space on the jammed roads and packed (now with Covid-19!) subway cars and buses, etc.
Readers: Can a politician actually advance both the interests of low-income African Americans and would-be low-skill immigrants at the same time? The U.S. does not have infinite financial resources nor infrastructure capacity. When an immigrant moves into public housing in San Francisco, for example, that unit becomes unavailable to a Black American, no?
- “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers” (by George Borjas, Harvard Kennedy School labor economist, in 2016): Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, it is low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, who have suffered most from this wage dip. The monetary loss is sizable. The typical high school dropout earns about $25,000 annually. According to census data, immigrants admitted in the past two decades lacking a high school diploma have increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by roughly 25 percent. As a result, the earnings of this particularly vulnerable group dropped by between $800 and $1,500 each year.