Intolerant of immigrants in their industrialized country, waves of Black South Africans participated in Black-on-Black mayhem that shocked the world. In these attacks, foreigners, particularly Africans, have been thrown from trains, killed, harassed, assaulted, chased from their homes and had their businesses ransacked, looted and burned.

America’s immigration issue could endure similar fanaticism if conservative commentators whip up enough anger against Browns here. A pattern of myths propagated by cable news show anchors that Brown foreigners are overpopulating the U.S., stealing jobs, depressing wages, stretching our social services, filling our prisons, and not assimilating, are fueling anti-immigrant racism and sparked an increase of prejudice against Latinos.

Fear-mongering on the issue of immigration comes from a bevy of sources–from white supremacist groups to CNN. The divisive and inflammatory language of broadcast hosts like Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck has many Black professionals, academics and blue-collar workers voicing increased uneasiness toward Browns. But, Wall Street Journal Black editorialist Jason Riley separates relevant facts about immigration from myth in his book “Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders.”


Recommended reading, Riley’s book puts the immigration discussion in historical perspective and exposes anti-immigrant arguments as “overblown and often counterfactual.” Mr. Riley contends that foreign workers play a vital role in keeping America prosperous; that maintaining an open-border policy is consistent with free-market economic principals; and that the arguments put forward by opponents of immigration ultimately don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Such delineation on the subject should be at the forefront of African Americans’ interest.

“People point to the high unemployment rate in the black community and find a convenient scapegoat in low-skill immigrants. And it’s true that these immigrants compete most directly with low-skill American workers, who are disproportionately Black. But if immigrants were having a significant impact on Black employment, we would see some correlation between the rate of immigration and the Black joblessness. In fact, the data shows that the Black jobless rate is largely impervious to the number of low-skill immigrants in the work force.

What this suggests is that immigrants aren’t displacing Blacks so much as filling positions that Blacks aren’t competing for. So before we blame Jorge for Jamal’s employment situation, we might consider some of the other socioeconomic factors–culture, education, labor regulations–that are much more likely to explain Black unemployment rates,” says Mr. Riley.

While the situation of Black migrants in South Africa unfolds in anarchy, the way America has assimilated foreign-born Blacks is noteworthy. Immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are a growing component of the U.S. population. Immigration contributed one-fifth of the US’s Black population growth between 2001 and 2006. The foreign-born Black population raised nearly seven-fold between 1960 and 1980, and more than tripled between 1980 and 2005.

About two-thirds of America’s foreign-born Blacks are from the Caribbean and Latin America, and one-third from Africa. More than one-fourth of the Black population in New York, Boston, and Miami is foreign-born. Nearly two-thirds of Caribbean-born Blacks live in the New York or Miami metropolitan areas. The number of Haitians–the second-largest Caribbean group–and Jamaicans, the largest, nearly quadrupled between 1980 and 2005.

African-born Blacks are more dispersed. Among the top cities for African-born Blacks is New York, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Atlanta, but three-fifths live in other areas, such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Dallas.

These Black immigrants are less distinguishable than “the Browns.” They have high educational attainment–38 percent of African-born and 20 percent of Caribbean-born Blacks have a college degree. They tend to have low rates of unemployment and poverty, but like American-born Blacks are often underpaid and underemployed given their educational achievements and experience.

Rants of anti-immigration news anchors are creating fear, hatred and negative stereotyping of immigrants.

American and foreign-born Blacks should be “less mainstream” and more receptive of “Browns” and their issues. As immigration reform discussions flow during the 2008 presidential election, “Let Them In” should be essential reading for liberals, or conservations, wanting to bring informed perspectives to the debate.

(This column was distributed through

Related link:

The Basis Of Black-Latino Unity Is Not Political (BEC, 07-24-2001)