When Liberals Sided with U.S. Workers

Coretta Scott King's Role in Stopping the 1991 Push to Allow Hiring of Illegals

Mar 04, 2013, 04:00 ET from Center for Immigration Studies

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The current debate over "comprehensive immigration reform" pits the interests of U.S. workers against those of foreign-born workers. Although much emphasis has been given to the split within conservative ranks over this issue, not so long ago the split was on the left, with many prominent civil rights leaders viewing immigration control as a necessary protection for American workers, especially minority workers.

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Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the employment of illegal workers was explicitly permitted by statute. A ban on hiring illegal aliens, known as "employer sanctions", was the key component of the 1986 grand bargain: Amnesty in exchange for promises of future enforcement. But once the amnesty was underway, opponents of enforcement reneged on the deal and launched a campaign to repeal employer sanctions and once again permit the employment of illegal aliens.

In 1991 Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., stopped repeal with a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who had just announced plans to introduce legislation abolishing employer sanctions. Her letter, written on behalf of the Black Leadership Forum, expressed concern that advocates of repeal were using claims of discrimination against foreign workers as a guise "to introduce cheap labor into the U.S. workforce", and offered to report to the senator on the "devastating impact the repeal would have on the economic conditions of un- and semi-skilled workers – a disproportionate number of who are African American and Hispanic."

The Center for Immigration Studies report on this incident, including a copy of Mrs. King's letter, can be found at: http://cis.org/when-liberals-sided-with-us-workers.

Among those who supported the employment of illegal immigrants was Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza, who wrote a 1990 report calling for the repeal of employer sanctions just four years after their enactment. (The report is online at http://www.cis.org/articles/2013/NCLR.pdf.) Munoz is now in charge of immigration policy at the White House.

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization. Since its founding in 1985, the Center has pursued a single mission — providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.

CONTACT: Marguerite Telford
mrt@cis.org (202) 466-8185

SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies