ACORN’s former CEO Bertha Lewis urged African-Americans to support increased immigration as a strategy to gain political power.
“We got some Latino cousins, we got some Asian cousins, we got some Native-American cousins, we got all kind of cousins,” said Lewis, who spoke Thursday at the annual political conference of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Cousins need to get together because if we’re going to be [part of the non-white] majority, it makes sense for black people in this country to get down with immigration reform,” said Lewis, whose ACORN group was formally disbanded in 2010 after a series of scandals.
Lewis did not mention solidarity with whites, or with people who define themselves as Americans, in her appeal for power.
“Everyone, even all white folks in this country, acknowledge that in a minute, [the] United States of America will be a new majority, will be majority minority, a brand-new thing,” she said.
In 2012, “for the first time ever in history, African-Americans outvoted white Americans. Oooh. That’s the fear of the white man. That could change everything. That’s why [immigration] should matter to us,” she declared.
Lewis got only modest applause from the room of 300 attendees, nearly all of whom were black.
But her appeal for non-white solidarity was backed up by New York Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke.
“What will happen with comprehensive immigration reform will be a new landscape of humanity in the United States of America,” Clarke told the attendees.
“America is a shape-shifter, and based on who’s here, in what numbers and at what time, determines the political outcomes,” she said. Blacks should cooperate with Latinos, she said, adding “we all have skin in the game, literally.”
The racial appeal was echoed by William Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO. “If we are going to be the new majority, we’re going to have to start acting like the new majority and start setting the new rules,” he said.
Once Congress approves an immigration increase, minorities should demand more, said Chicago Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a leading advocate of the pending Senate bill,
“The next day after we pass it, you know we’re not going to be satisfied, we’re going to come back,” he said. “We’re going to have a civil rights act, we’re going to have a voting rights act… Nobody is leaving this fight once we conclude this first chapter,” he said.
“Hopefully, in 30 years, [we] can bring immigrants… from all over the world,” Gutierrez said.
The call for solidarity among non-whites was commingled with some non-racial calls for solidarity of working-class Americans.
African-Americans should not object to gains by immigrants, said Spriggs, who became a union economist after leaving an assistant secretary job at the Obama Department of Labor.
“Somebody else winning doesn’t mean you’re losing,” the economist explained. “We can’t let one set of workers be pushed aside and think we’re going to make it.”
Other attendees complained about immigrants’ refusal to hire African-Americans or to accept civil-rights laws, and the commonplace stealing of Social Security Numbers.
Currently, the formal unemployment rate among African-Americans is 13 percent. However, the formal number understates the level of unemployment. For example, fewer than half of black men aged between 18 and 30 have full-time jobs.
Last June, President Barack Obama bypassed Congress’ opposition to an amnesty for younger illegal immigrants, and has awarded work-permits to almost 500,000 young illegal immigrants.
This July, with support from Obama, the Senate passed an immigration bill that would provide work permits to roughly 33 million immigrants and create a pool of roughly 2 million blue-collar and university-trained guest-workers, over the next decade.
Advocates say increased immigration will spur the economy and fund a bigger government.
But studies of increased immigration suggest the economic gains will go to immigrants and company owners. Some attendees said the caucus should focus more clearly on issues of concern to black Americans.
“We are the last hired and have the last opportunities, yet amnesty supporters would have you think that adding millions more workers at this time is good,” said Leah Durant, founder of the Black American Leadership Alliance. ”When so many Americans of all races are out of work, that is ridiculous,” Durant told The Daily Caller.
“Blacks as well as other low-skilled workers have made their greatest advances when we have low levels of immigration,” she said. “It is time for black leaders to stand up for blacks.”
A June poll by NumbersUSA, a group which want to shrink immigration, reported that only 15 percent of blacks and 44 percent of Hispanics back the Senate bill’s offer of amnesty to 11 million illegal-immigrants. A July poll conducted for advocates of increased immigration reported that 59 percent of registered Latino voters support a goal of “stopping 90 percent of the undocumented immigration in the future.”
Yet most members of the Congressional Black Caucus have agreed to back the Senate immigration bill.
ACORN’s Lewis mocked the mainstream concerns.
“You had some black folks talk about ‘Those people took my job… [and] I used to be in a big house, but now I ain’t,’” she sneered. Those complaints were “madness,” said Lewis, who works as a political activist with other pro-immigration activists, donors and foundations.
In response, Durant condemned black leaders’ rush for increased immigration, saying “They see political advantage in it for themselves, and they’re selling out the blank community.”
Gutierrez urged African-American and Latino legislators to hide their disagreements from the public.
“We have tough conversations when we lock the room — but we are smart enough to lock the room,” he told the audience. “We keep our arguments to ourselves.”