Are Illegal Immigrants Worse Off Than Blacks?

June 6, 2011  |  

Wanda Sykes recently appeared on Piers Morgan and said “It is harder to be gay than it is being Black.” Well, I can’t contest her claim because I am only 50% of her experience. Thus, I can only speculate in my comparison instead of forming empathetic hypothesis. However, what her statement did was make me think about these categorical comparisons. What else can someone compare being Black to? I decided to take on the topic of illegal immigrants.

New immigration bills are flying around the country, giving police officers the right to check immigration status and leading many disgruntled and undocumented workers to compare their struggles to the historical and modern-day struggles of Blacks in this country. I actually believe the protection of people in any country is a human right and not a civil right, so there shouldn’t be repercussions for someone reporting crimes or being under suspicion of one. Now as for getting work and benefiting from government education, that should be a benefit of citizenry.

The comparison we should take a closer look at is, are illegal immigrants worse off than Blacks? I saw on various news channels where executives from agricultural industries were enraged by the “e-verify” program that forces them to submit a worker’s information in order to verify the worker’s eligibility for the job. When last have we seen corporate executives fighting for economic progress for Blacks? The irony is, companies black market income but don’t black market debt. What do I mean by this?

A company would illegally hire someone to work for them, but a lender will not issue a loan to an illegal immigrant. This simply means that illegal immigrants are forced to operate under a cash-based methodology, which only increases their net worth and political power. Because they have no valid social security number, there’s a high demand for their labor. By only paying consumption taxes and carrying little liabilities, these folks become asset-rich!

Interestingly enough, a study by the Economic Policy Institute revealed the following:

· Over the 1994-2000 period, poverty rates fell much more quickly for immigrants than for natives. For example, the national poverty rates of recent immigrants (those here for 10 years or less) fell about four times as fast as for natives (11.6 percentage points for immigrants versus 2.9 points for natives); the rate for all immigrants fell 2.7 times as fast as that of U.S. natives.

· Immigrant families also experienced greater increases than U.S. natives in real median family incomes from 1994 to 2000. After adjusting for inflation, the median family incomes of immigrants rose 26.3% from 1994 to 2000, while the median family incomes of native U.S. families grew half that fast. For recent immigrants, the growth in real median family income was even larger at 40.5%.

By no means am I saying that immigrants are destroying Blacks but we have been involved with too many smokescreens and been hoodwinked enough to know that as a group we should focus on solving our own rights-based issues that will translate into economic sustenance. Should Blacks really get in the trenches with such an economically growing class? For some in the Black community, the struggle is over for us and it is time to pay it forward, for others, let’s just say the battle continues.

Devin Robinson is a business and economics professor and author of “Rebuilding in the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation” and “Blacks: From the Plantation to the Prison.” Contact him at

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