Assessing the Impact of Mass Immigration on African-Americans
There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
In the nineteenth century American bar owners offered free lunches as a way to attract noontime patrons. Inevitably, the diners would get thirsty, and buy expensive drinks—they paid for their lunch one way or another. Thus the above expression. Prosaic though its origins may be, the phrase captures a deep and omnipresent truth: everything has a price, an opportunity cost, a trade-off. This is true of lunches, and it’s true of America’s immigration policy.
Despite what The Economist claims, immigration does not benefit everyone—there are winners and losers. In America’s case, the winners are the immigrants themselves and wealthy Americans; the losers are the working class, millennials, and black Americans.
Mass immigration, both legal and illegal, disproportionately hurts black Americans because they are far more likely than white Americans to compete with immigrants for work. The evidence for this is overwhelming.
In 2008 Cornell University’s Vernon Briggs Jr testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights, stating that there was “little doubt” that black Americans are the “major loser” in the immigration equation. Illegal immigration is particularly detrimental according to Briggs:
Given the inordinately high unemployment rates for low skilled black workers (the highest for all racial and ethnic groups for whom data is collected), it is obvious that the major loser in this competition are low skilled black workers. This is not surprising, since if employers have an opportunity to hire illegal immigrant workers, they will always give them preference over legal workers of any race or ethnic background. This is because illegal immigrant workers view low skilled jobs in the American economy as being highly preferable to the job opportunities in their homelands that they have left.
On this point Briggs is entirely correct. Employers prefer to hire illegal workers because they are both cheaper and more likely to tolerate poor working conditions. As explained in my previous article on the economics of illegal immigration:
. . .many illegal aliens also work under-the-table, making less than minimum wage and foregoing expensive employer-provided healthcare plans. This undercuts the labor-market’s mandated floor, pulling the rug out from under American workers. . .
Illegal immigration also causes unemployment for American citizens. Why? Because employers often prefer to hire illegals because they have leverage over them: aliens have no recourse for termination without cause, and must tolerate poor working conditions. This leverage, combined with lower wages, prices many Americans out of the labor market—how can a citizen earning minimum wage who has legal protections compete with a legal ghost making 2 bucks an hour? They can’t.
Empirical evidence supports this logic. For example, President Trump’s crackdown on illegal aliens caused wages for Texan construction workers to rise by 30 percent in 2017. Likewise, when the availability of temporary work visas dried up in Maine the labor market re-balanced: unemployment decreased, wages increased, and working conditions improved in order to attract American workers.
Aside from these tangible examples, the academic evidence shows that immigration—both legal and illegal—negatively distorts wages for domestic workers, particularly those in low-end positions. The following video produced by the Federation for American Immigration Reform is short, but it articulates the main points graphically, and is worth a brief watch:
Steven Camarota, the Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research, also testified before the US Civil Rights Commission in 2008. He argued that black Americans were disproportionately affected by immigration because of their low educational achievement, which put them in direct competition with Hispanic immigrants:
Compared to white men, a much larger share of native-born black men have relatively little education. About six out of 10 adult black men have only a high school degree or failed to graduate high school, compared to about four out of 10 white men. . .
In my own research I have found that blacks are more likely to be in competition with immigrants than are whites. A 1995 study by Augustine Kposowa concluded that, “non-whites appear to lose jobs to immigrants and their earnings are depressed by immigrants.” A 1998 study of the New York area by Howell and Mueller found that a 10-percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of an occupation reduced wages of black men about five percentage points. Given the large immigrant share of the occupations they studied, this implies a significant impact on native-born blacks.
The logic here is impeccable, and the findings are consistent with Briggs’ research: mass immigration hurts black Americans.
Black Americans know this, and it’s why they are the racial group most opposed to immigration, according to a new poll from Harvard University. The poll found that fully 85 percent of black Americans wanted to reduce immigration levels. And yet they vote overwhelmingly Democrat—a party which only exists because of immigration. This is as strange as it is regrettable, but it will change.
Eventually economic pressure will force black Americans to vote Republican. Right now over 45 million immigrants live in America, and this number grows by 1.4 million people every year. On top of this, a new study from Yale University shows that there are at least 23 million illegal immigrants in America, compounding the problem further. Unless immigration rates are dramatically reduced, black Americans will continue to be replaced by foreign workers, and their economic situation will never improve.
Voting Democrat didn’t work—black America would be wise to give the Republicans a chance.