National Center for Public Policy Research data release

For Release: August 11, 2014
Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or [email protected] or David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or (703) 568-4727 (text-enabled cell) or [email protected]


Obama Amnesty Would Hurt Black Americans


Washington, D.C. - If President Barack Obama takes unilateral executive action to grant work permits to millions of illegal aliens, he will hurt black Americans, say experts with the Project 21 black leadership network.

How Black Americans Will Be Hurt by an Obama Amnesty

Black Americans will be hurt because the President will flood the labor market with workers who compete disproportionately with black Americans. This will increase black unemployment and discourage some blacks from entering the labor market, and, according to some studies, increase black incarceration rates.

Facts and Figures

  • Black Americans are already suffering from higher-than-average unemployment. The 2013 unemployment rate for blacks with no high school diploma was 20.5 percent; for those with such a diploma, 12.6 percent. By contrast, the rate was 7.4 percent for all races and 6.5 percent for whites.1

  • 7.1 million black citizens age 25-54 have a high school education or less; if President Obama succeeds in unilaterally granting work permits to illegal aliens, 6.2 million aliens aged 25-54 with a high school education or less will be able to compete legally for work with those 7.1 million blacks.2

  • Other than the illegal immigrants themselves, employers are the most likely to benefit financially from amnesty, yet black Americans are disproportionately unlikely to own business equity. Equity in businesses accounts for less than four percent of assets for black households, compared to 18 percent for white, according to Pew Research, which also reports that ownership value in business assets declined slightly from 1983-2010 for black families but increased by 106 percent during the period for whites.3

  • Illegal immigrants and black Americans in the workforce have a similar median age (approximately 36 and 39 years of age, respectively,4 with non-Hispanic whites six years older than the illegal immigrants, at 425), making illegal aliens more likely to compete head-to-head for age-sensitive employment opportunities.

  • Illegal alien migration within the United States tends toward major metropolitan cities and, increasingly in recent years, to urban and rural areas in southeastern states, which tend to have higher black populations. This is putting more immigrants in direct competition with black Americans for jobs. Dr. Vernon M. Briggs, Jr. of Cornell wrote in 2010: "…some of the fastest growing immigrant concentrations are now taking place in the urban and rural labor markets of the states of the Southeast — such as Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia... Indeed, about 26 percent of the nation's foreign-born population are now found in the states of the South… many of these new immigrants in this region are illegal immigrants."6

  • The recession took a particularly harsh toll on black America, with the black unemployment rate rising to a high of 16.7 percent twice (March 2010 and August 2011)7 during the Obama Administration, and remaining high during the second quarter of 2014, when 11 percent of blacks in the workforce aged 16 and older were unemployed compared to an overall unemployment rate of 6.1 percent.8

What Project 21 Members Say About Amnesty's Impact on Black Americans

Joe Hicks"Under Barack Obama, high rates of poverty and unemployment have become the status quo for all-too-many blacks. Yet this president is willing to facilitate the importation of yet more poverty into our nation in the form of low-skilled illegal aliens from Central America and Mexico. In the face of already depressed wages and scarce jobs, blacks now face the specter of increased pressure from millions of illegal immigrants to whom Obama threatens to grant amnesty, further depressing wages and job opportunities for black men and teenagers — guaranteeing lives of poverty well into the foreseeable future." - Joe R. Hicks, Project 21 member and a former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Derryck Green"Intentionally allowing millions of illegal immigrants into an already-stressed economy will further decrease wages while increasing competition for economic opportunities that don't exist, particularly among low-skilled black Americans. It's bad economic policy. Official government measures say just under ten million Americans are unemployed, and the labor force participation rate is near historic lows. The economy has averaged a growth rate of under one percent over the past two quarters and more than 11 million people left the workforce altogether during President Obama's tenure. We can't create enough jobs for citizens who need them, yet Obama wants to act alone to add millions of illegal aliens to that troublesome equation?" - Project 21's Derryck Green, who blogs on the economy for the black leadership network

What Others Say about Amnesty's Impact on Black Americans

  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded in 2010 that, "Illegal immigration to the United States in recent decades has tended to depress both wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men."9

  • A joint paper by professors at the University of California, University of Chicago and Harvard for the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that immigration has measurably lowered black wages. One author, Dr. Gordon H. Hanson of UC San Diego, said, "Our study suggests that a 10 percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a skill group is associated with a reduction in the black wage of 4.0 percent, a reduction in the black employment rate of 3.5 percentage points, and an increase in the black institutionalization [incarceration] rate of 0.8 percentage points."10

    Dr. Hanson also testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that, "The economic adjustments unleashed by the large 1980–2000 immigrant influx, a labor supply shock that increased the number of workers in the United States by nearly 10 percent and the number of high school dropouts by over 20 percent, reduced the employment rate of low-skill black men by about eight percentage points. Immigration, therefore, accounts for about 40 percent of the 18 percentage point decline in black employment rates. Similarly, the changes in economic opportunities caused by the 1980–2000 immigrant influx raised the incarceration rate of black high school dropouts by 1.7 percentage points, accounting for about 10 percent of the 20 percentage point increase observed during that period."11

  • Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., professor emeritus in labor economics at Cornell, has noted that both illegal immigrant and black workers tend to "cluster in metropolitan areas," thus increasing the likelihood that they will compete for the same jobs. Dr. Briggs adds, "there is little doubt that there is significant overlap in competition for jobs in this sector of the labor market. 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…"12

    Dr. Briggs further states, "As for wage suppression, all studies show that the large infusion of immigrants has depressed the wages of low-skilled workers. It is the illegal immigrant component of the immigration flow that has most certainly caused the most damage… the unemployment rates in the low-skilled labor market are the highest in the entire national labor force. This means that the low-skilled labor market is in a surplus condition. Willing workers are available at existing wage rates. By definition, therefore, illegal immigrants who are overwhelmingly present in that same labor market sector adversely affect the economic opportunities of legal citizen workers because the illegal workers are preferred workers. No group pays a higher penalty for this unfair competition than do low-skilled black Americans, given their inordinately high unemployment levels."

    Dr. Briggs concludes, "The continued reluctance by our national government to get illegal immigrants out of the labor force — and to keep them out — by enforcing the existing sanctions at the work site against employers of illegal immigrants is itself a massive violation of the civil rights of all low-skilled workers in the United States and of low-skilled black American workers in particular."

  • Dr. Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University and the Urban Institute has addressed evidence from two studies showing that employers may have a preference for hiring immigrants over black citizens, noting the studies show "that employers perceive stronger work ethic among the immigrants, and a greater willingness to tolerate low wages... Some of these perceptions and the hiring behavior they generate might well reflect discrimination, especially against black men whom employers generally fear…"15

  • Labor attorney Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, testified before the U.S. Senate in 2012 that "…recent history shows that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants will encourage more people to come to the United States illegally. The 1986 amnesty did not solve the illegal immigration problem. To the contrary, that amnesty established the precedent that if you come to America illegally, eventually you will obtain legal status. Thus, it is likely that if illegal immigrants are granted legal status, more people will come to America illegally and will further crowd African-American men (and other low-skilled men and women) out of the workforce."16

So far in 2014, Project 21 members have been interviewed or cited by the media over 1,000 times on issues including civil rights, entitlement programs, the economy, race preferences, education and corporate social responsibility. Project 21 has participated in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race preferences and voting rights and defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (

Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.



1 "Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population 25 Years and Over by Educational Attainment, Sex, Race, and Hispanic and Latino Ethnicity," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., February 26, 2014, available at as of August 7, 2014, and "Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population by Sex, Age and Race," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., February 26, 2014, available at as of August 7, 2014.

2 "Educational Attainment of the Population 18 Years and Over, by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin: 2013 (Black Alone)," downloaded from "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2013 — Detailed Tables," U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., available at as of August 7, 2014, and Bryan Baker and Nancy Rytina, "Age by Sex of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2012," "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2012," Office of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C., March 2013, available at as of August 7, 2014.

3 Drew Desilver, "Black Incomes are Up, But Wealth Isn't," Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., August 20, 2013, available online at as of August 7, 2014.

4 "Median Age of the Labor Force, By Sex, Race and Ethnicity, 1992, 2002, 2012 and Projected 2022," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., December 19, 2013, available at as of August 7, 2014, and Paul Taylor, Mark Hugo Lopez, Jeffrey S. Passel and Seth Motel, "Unauthorized Immigrants: Length of Residency, Patterns of Parenthood," Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, Washington, D.C., December 1, 2011, available at as of August 7, 2014.

5 Jeffrey S. Passel, Gretchen Livingston and D'Vera Cohn, "Explaining Why Minority Births Now Outnumber White Births," Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2012, available at as of August 7, 2014.

6 Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., "Illegal Immigration: The Impact on Wages and Employment of Black Workers," Cornell University ILR School, August 1, 2010, available at as of August 7, 2014.

7 "Unemployment Rate Demographics, September 2012," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., October 10, 2012, available at as of August 7, 2014.

8 Ibid.

9 "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers," U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C., page 3, number 5, available at as of August 7, 2014.

10 "Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper by Gordon H. Hanson, George Borjas, and Jeffrey Grogger, as described by Gordon H. Hanson in testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers," Washington, D.C., October 14, 2010, available at, page 24 as of August 7, 2014.

11 Ibid, page 26.

12 Dr. Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., emeritus professor in labor economics at Cornell, in testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers," Washington, D.C., October 14, 2010, available at, pages 37-38 as of August 7, 2014.

13 Ibid, pages 38-39.

14 Ibid, page 39.

15 Ibid, page 41.

16 "Testimony of Peter Kirsanow before the U.S. Judiciary Committee," U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., April 19, 2012, available at as of August 7, 2014.


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