Today, at a hearing on “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) rejected the argument that widespread job displacement among African Americans is a result from immigration.
At the hearing, Mr. Conyers delivered the following remarks:
We come here today under the guise of protecting American workers. But we have yet to see any action on the floor or in this committee that would actually create jobs or help unemployed and low-income Americans. Instead, this subcommittee is holding its third hearing in a row in which immigration is being portrayed as the reason for widespread unemployment.
Instead of addressing the much deeper issues underlying our weakened economy, high unemployment, and continued inequities, we seem to be blaming all of our problems on undocumented workers. Instead of proposing real workable solutions, the Republican jobs plan is to simply deport 11 million people.
Rounding up and deporting 11 million people is not a realistic plan. But even if it were, any economist will tell you that it would further drive our economy into a ditch. These are 11 million active consumers in local economies — they buy goods, patronize local businesses, rent homes, and many pay taxes.
If my colleagues really care about minorities, they should focus on policies and programs that will actually help them. For example, economists agree that the job prospects for African-American workers are determined to a much greater degree by other factors – including educational opportunities, crime rates, loss of factory and other blue collar jobs, and discrimination.
Yet Republicans consistently oppose programs aimed at addressing those problems – such as increasing the minimum wage, health care reform, equal pay for women, and foreclosure relief. And the Republican majority just recently passed a budget that is estimated to destroy 700,000 jobs, while also decimating Head Start and Pell Grants. This doesn’t sound like the actions of people who want to help minorities get ahead.
In closing, I would remind my colleagues that immigrants have always played a vital role in our society and have helped to build the most dynamic economy in the world. Let us not forget the millions of jobs created by immigrants like Andy Grove of Intel and Sergey Brin of Google. Indeed, more than half of Silicon Valley startups had one or more immigrants as a key founder. Let us also not forget that immigrants also start small businesses at two to three times the rate of US-born Americans. These small businesses create millions of other job opportunities that we cannot stand to lose.