What is the Impact of Immigration on Racial Economic Equality?

As the immigration debate continues on this fall among members of Congress, there is an on-going discussion in the media about the relationship between black economic struggle and the impact of immigration.  What is the true nature of this relationship and should this discussion even be relevant?

The struggle for economic and racial equality in the U.S. is ongoing.  A recent report by the Pew Research Center highlights a dramatic economic divide among Americans of different races.  For example, according to the study, the difference between whites and blacks when it comes to median household income has grown by 42 percent since 1963.

Is immigration to blame for this widening gap?  There is a camp that claims that Hispanic immigration is driving down wages for black workers, but Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, refutes this idea with compelling evidence.  According to Media Matters, immigration has a positive effect on the economy as a whole.  The immigration bill that the Senate passed in June would dramatically increase legal immigration resulting in an overall decrease to the federal deficit by approximately $150 billion within the next decade.  Additionally, legalizing workers that are currently undocumented could result in an increase of workplace wages and benefits for all workers.  If the 11 million undocumented workers can legally lend their voice to the cause and advocate for things such as fair pay, it makes sense that the situation for all workers could improve.  Furthermore, employers would no longer recognize a savings in benefits and salaries in hiring undocumented workers.

Opponents claim that immigrants displace black workers and drive wages down.  While there may be evidence to suggest that immigration can lower wages among certain sectors of the black workforce, there are so many other social challenges to black men including high incarceration rates and racial discrimination, it’s difficult to pinpoint one single factor that has contributed to continuing unemployment for black workers.

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