Among the legions of Washington advocates for "comprehensive immigration reform", I've long regarded Marc Rosenblum as one of the best informed and most intellectually honest. Marc, the deputy director of the Migration Policy Institute's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, is also a first-class gentleman.
But Marc is an advocate with a definite point of view, which he developed as a political science professor, adviser to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, member of President-elect Obama's transition team, and immigration policy expert at the Congressional Research Service.
So when he appeared this morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program, I was glad to hear callers challenge him on his view that illegal immigrant workers tend to have a minor effect on the job prospects of American workers. He claimed that immigrant workers tend to occupy different niches in the labor market and therefore complement American workers. Only in passing did he acknowledge that some immigrant workers compete with Americans, especially those who are unskilled.
A caller identified as Peter from South Carolina said Rosenblum's view was misleading, offering as evidence his discussions with contractors who are enjoying a construction boom in the Palmetto State. Said the caller:
I never see a black on a construction site. I ask them: "How come you don't have blacks on these sites?" And they tell me, "Well, illegal immigrants are like indentured servants and furthermore they work harder than blacks." So blacks are being pushed out of the labor market.
Another caller, a black woman from Nashville, took exception to Rosenblum's observation that U.S. investment in countries like Honduras could discourage illegal immigration. Said the caller:
It seems kind of hypocritical to me that the United States goes all over the world protecting or helping other countries protect their borders, but they cannot protect the borders of the United States. And as far as praising the immigrants from South about their industriousness and how they come here for jobs, you have African Americans here who don't have jobs. People will not hire them. No kind of investment or very little investment is made in African-American community. And yet these people are coming into this country; they're being praised. Well, it's good for them that they can immigrate to another country. African-Americans can't even immigrate across town in order to improve their lives.
I believe the effects of illegal immigration on African-Americans are probably the most under covered story in the national immigration debate. Here is the best explanation I have, as someone who was an investigative reporter for many years.
Investigative reporting begins with a reporter's sense—perhaps a conviction, perhaps a hunch—that something has gone wrong and needs to be examined so that its consequences can be understood. Most reporters tend to have liberal leanings (including me). Liberals tend to be supportive of illegal immigrants because they regard them as victims, oppressed and vulnerable people who need to be protected. They are reluctant to probe the downside of illegal immigration because that could entail blaming the victim and that could be seen as mean-spirited. The result is immigration coverage that is often shallow and stunted by bias and political correctness.
I will have more to say later on Marc Rosenblum's appearance today, which was hosted by C-SPAN's Greta Wodele Brawner.