FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where are the Old Line Civil Rights Groups?

by EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON

The great irony in the gargantuan march of tens of thousands in Los Angeles and other cities for immigrant rights is that the old civil rights groups have been virtually mute on immigration and the marches. There are no position papers, statements, or press releases on the websites of the NAACP, Urban League, SCLC on immigration reform, and nothing on the marches. The Congressional Black Caucus hasn’t done much better. It has issued mostly perfunctory, tepid and cautious statements opposing the draconian provisions of the House bill that passed last December. The bill calls for a wall on the Southern border, a massive beef up in border security, and tough sanctions on employers that hire illegal aliens. The Senate Judiciary Committee will wrestle with the bill this week.

Only nine CBC members initially backed the relatively liberal immigration reform bill introduced by CBC member Sheila Lee Jackson in 2004. The lone exception to the old guard’s mute response was their lambaste of Mexican President Vicente Fox last May for his quip that Mexicans will work jobs that even blacks won’t.

The silence from mainstream civil rights groups and the CBC’s modest support for immigrant rights is a radical departure from the past. During the 1980s when immigration was not the hot button issue it is today, the Caucus in 1985 staunchly opposed tougher immigration proposals, voted against employer sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants, and an English language requirement to attain legalization. That was an easy call then. Those were the Reagan years, and Reagan and conservative Republicans, then as now, pushed the bill. Civil rights leaders and black Democrats waged low yield war against Reagan policies.

The NAACP made a slight nod to the immigration fight when it invited Hector Flores, president of League of United Latin American Citizens, to address its 2002 convention. The NAACP billed the invitation as a “historic first.” But it was careful to note that immigration was one of a list of policy initiatives the two groups would work together on. That list included support for affirmative action, expanded hate crimes legislation, voting rights protections, and increased health and education funding. There is no indication that the two groups have done much together since the convention to tackle these crisis problems, and that includes immigration reform.

The CBC and civil rights leaders tread lightly on the immigrant rights battle for two reasons. They are loath to equate the immigrant rights movement with the civil rights battles of the 1960s. They see immigrant rights as a reactive, narrow, single-issue movement whose leaders have not actively reached out to black leaders and groups. Spanish language newspapers, and radio stations, for instance, drove the mammoth march and rally in Los Angeles. Their fiery appeals to take action were in Spanish, and many of the marchers waved Mexican and El Salvadorian flags.

Black leaders also cast a nervous glance over their shoulder at the shrill chorus of anger rising from many African-Americans, especially the black poor, of whom a significant number flatly oppose illegal immigrant rights. But illegal immigration is not the prime reason so many poor young blacks are on the streets, and why some turn to gangs, guns and drug dealing to get ahead.

A shrinking economy, sharp state and federal government cuts in and the elimination of job and skills training programs, failing public schools, a soaring black prison population, and employment discrimination are the prime causes of the poverty crisis in many inner city black neighborhoods. The recent studies by Princeton, Columbia and Harvard researchers on the dreary plight of young black males reconfirmed that chronic unemployment has turned thousands of young black males into America’s job untouchables.

Yet, many blacks soft target illegal immigrants for the crisis and loudly claim that they take jobs from unskilled and marginally skilled blacks. Black fury over immigration has cemented an odd alliance between black anti-immigrant activists and GOP conservatives, fringe anti-illegal immigration groups, and thinly disguised racially tinged America first groups.

Historians, politicians, and civil rights activists hail the March on Washington in August 1963 as the watershed event in the civil rights movement. It defined an era of protest, sounded the death knell for the near century of legal segregation, and challenged Americans to make racial justice a reality for blacks. But the estimated million that marched and held rallies for immigrant rights in Los Angeles and other cities dwarfed the numbers at the March on Washington. If the numbers and passion immigration reform stirs mean anything, the judgment of history will be that it also defined an era, sounded the death knell for discrimination against immigrants, and challenged Americans to make justice and equality a reality for immigrants, both legal and illegal. The battle over immigrant rights will be fought as fiercely and doggedly as the civil rights battle of the 1960s. That battle forever altered the way Americans look at race. The immigrant’s rights battle will profoundly alter the way Americans look at immigrants. The silence of civil rights leaders won’t change that.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON is a columnist for BlackNews.com, an author of The Disappearance of Black Leadership and The Assassination of the Black Male Image.

 

 

May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail