By Aswad Walker
Immigration reform is one of the major issues debated by today's gridlocked Congress, and it also produces mixed feelings among Black Americans.
Recently, the Defender spoke with U.S. Congress members Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green regarding their positions on comprehensive immigration reform and how it impacts the Black community.
Defender: Why should African-Americans support immigration reform?
Jackson Lee: More and more Blacks are inter-marrying with other races, particularly individuals from Central and South America, from the islands, from various countries in Africa. Thus, immigration laws threaten to break up these Black families as they seek and are denied visas for their spouses or relatives of their spouses. Additionally, the children who had no say in the matter should not have to suffer
Blacks, who have such a stellar civil rights legacy, must be on board with this issue of ending discrimination against the least of these. We who have been victimized for generations by such actions cannot stand idly by while others are subject to that same mistreatment, and are singled out because of the group of which they are part -- a group which is often a people of color.
Green: We should support comprehensive immigration reform because it will help create jobs by providing a $1.5 trillion boost over 10 years in Gross Domestic Product, and by providing $66 billion over 10 years in federal tax revenue, as well as strengthen Social Security for future senior citizens.
However, I have a more lofty and noble ideal in mind Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, "There comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, simply because it is right." Hence, people of good will should stand for comprehensive immigration reform because it is the right thing to do.
Defender: How do you respond to African-Americans who fear that immigrants, particularly Hispanics, are taking jobs from them?
Green: One of the aims of comprehensive immigration reform is to improve worker and wage protections for citizens and immigrants alike. Too often, employers exploit the notion that undocumented immigrants, living in fear and desperate for work, are willing to work for lower wages. By ensuring that all workers receive fair wages, we are removing this means of suppressing wages, which will help all workers.
Jackson Lee: The real crux of the problem is the fact that we have unemployment over 5 percent. We need legislation that is creating jobs in the health, energy and high-tech fields. We must also put an end to discriminatory policies no matter who comes to this country This issue is not about Hispanics but about discrimination. It is about enacting legislation that will help this great nation produce more qualified individuals ready to work; legislation that brings about the elimination of discrimination.