WASHINGTON – Black lawmakers accused Republicans on Tuesday of trying to "manufacture tension" between African-Americans and immigrants as GOP House members argued in a hearing that more minorities would be working were it not for illegal immigration.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, criticized the hearing's premise in a statement. Several other Democratic lawmakers echoed that argument, saying Republicans were ignoring their lack of support for job training, affirmative action, college financial aid and other programs more critical to employment of minorities.
"I am concerned by the majority's attempt to manufacture tension between African-Americans and immigrant communities. It seems as though they would like for our communities to think about immigration in terms of 'us versus them,' and I reject that notion," Cleaver said in his statement.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, issued a warning at the start of the hearing against any attempts to pit blacks against Latino immigrants, a notion that he said he found "so abhorrent and repulsive."
The Republican takeover of the House has given the GOP the chance to shape the immigration debate this session. Republicans have been couching their immigration agenda in the context of the slumping economy and consistently high unemployment. Tuesday's hearing by the immigration and enforcement subcommittee was the third focusing on jobs, the economy and immigration enforcement.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., the subcommittee's chairman, argued that the "real victims of the failed immigration policies" are low-skilled legal workers. Gallegly said the topic is often ignored by immigration supporters.
"Our focus should be on ensuring every U.S. citizen American who is willing to work has a job instead of (filling) jobs with foreign laborers," Gallegly said. Immigrants often compete for jobs with low-income laborers, he said.
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