THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Trump stokes Black fears over immigrants

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Contributing Writer

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a Black friend, associate or relative loudly complain that all these illegal immigrants pouring into the country are taking jobs from Blacks and hogging all the social service and educational benefits, I’d be a multi-millionaire. 

Donald Trump certainly has masterfully exploited that horror. His new hit point on illegal immigrants is that if reelected president he will conduct the greatest mass deportation in American history, and to boot, slap an iron clad lock on the border.

That is all textbook Trump sensationalist bloviating, and almost none of his inflammatory, borderline racist, chauvinist, nativist pandering has a prayer of passing legal and constitutional muster. Yet, as evidenced by the concerns and fears of many Blacks — most of whom have absolutely no love for Trump or his politics — illegal immigration has touched a sore spot with them.

Black fears about the alleged negative impact on Black job, education and services are certainly nothing new. In times past, Black foes of illegal immigrant have called illegal immigration the greatest threat to Black America since slavery. That eye-catching, over-the-top bit of hyperbole sets more tongues wagging than celebrity sex gossip.

Blacks have been loudly protesting illegal immigration since it became a stormy national issue and did much to propel Trump into the Oval Office in 2016. A decade before that an odd assemblage of writers, preachers, a homeless rights advocate, professional anti-immigration advocates and a few local Black community residents from the Washington, D.C. area, grabbed some momentary camera time with a press conference in Washington, D.C. They called themselves Choose Black America and claimed that the overwhelming majority of Black Americans agreed with them that illegal immigration was the prime threat to Blacks.

That was hardly a spontaneous gathering of public-spirited Blacks outraged over the impact of illegal immigration, and neither was their red-hot rhetoric against the bill. The Federation for American Immigration Reform paid for the airfare, hotel accommodations and expenses for most of the participants as well as the rental fee for the press conference. The organization long demanded the toughest possible immigration laws and the tightest possible border control enforcement.

Their Washington, D.C. flutter was the high-water mark at that time for the Black immigration foes. With the death of the immigration reform bill in Congress, the group quickly vanished from the public’s radarscope.

The signs that illegal immigration continued to be a point of worry for many Blacks were there all along. The first big warning sign of Black frustration with illegal immigration came during the battle over Proposition 187 in California in 1994. 

White voters voted by big margins for the proposition that denied public services to undocumented immigrants. But nearly 50% of Blacks also backed the measure.

Then-Republican Gov. Pete Wilson shamelessly pandered to anti-immigrant hysteria and rode it to a reelection victory. Wilson also got nearly 20% of the Black vote in the 1994 election. It was double what Republicans in California typically got from Blacks. 

Wilson almost certainly bumped up his Black vote total with his freewheeling assault on illegal immigration. Blacks also gave substantial support to anti-bilingual ballot measures in California.

More than a decade later, Black attitudes toward illegal immigrants, which almost always is seen as Latino illegal immigrants, was put to the electoral test in Arizona with another ballot initiative. Proposition 200 mandated tough sanctions on employers for hiring illegal immigrants and tighter border enforcement. 

Exit polls showed that more than 65% of Blacks backed the measure. As with Proposition 187 in California a decade before, it passed by a landslide.

The vote by Blacks on the anti-illegal immigration ballot measures of the past and their antipathy to illegal immigration as measured by current polls and surveys flies in the fact of the staunch support that mainstream civil rights organizations and most of the Congressional Black Caucus give to the passage of a comprehensive, liberal immigration reform law.

Yet there is a kicker in those polls and that is the issue of jobs. Blacks express deep worry that they are slipping further behind in the battle for more jobs. And that’s a legitimate fear. Blacks continue to suffer the highest rates of unemployment of any group in America.

The job crisis has an especially devastating impact on young, marginally skilled and educated Black males. In the eternal hunt for scapegoats to dump blame for the job crisis on, illegal immigration is the softest of soft targets.

That’s wrong-headed, misguided and fraught with peril. The prime cause of chronic Black unemployment is corporate downsizing and outsourcing, the massive cuts in federal and state job and skills training funds and programs, the reluctance and flat-out refusal of many employers to hire those with criminal records, and the sneaky and open racial discrimination by private employers.

None of that matters to Trump and those who relentlessly feed into Black fears about job loss to illegals. Trump banks on riding back into the White House by stoking a heavy dose of that fear. He banks that many Blacks who already say they like some of his positions on the issues will be among those who smooth his path to victory. Let’s hope he’s dead wrong on that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. The new YouTube documentary, “American Journalist,” chronicles his writing and activism. He also is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

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