NAACP Jumps in Immigration Fight

The civil rights organization contends proposed legislation would make criminals of undocumented immigrants……


NAACP directors argue that the pending immigration reform bills unfairly target immigrants from African and Caribbean countries, the civil rights organization is pushing for legislation that would address those injustices while protecting the rights of immigrants.


“We are working closely with coalitions dedicated to immigration reform,” Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, said in a recent interview. “The 11 million immigrants hiding in the shadows, nor the African American community benefit from today’s immigration policy in the United States.”


Doug Rivlin, spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, one of the leading groups fighting immigration legislation currently being considered, rejected the notion that African Americans are not sympathetic toward the issue of immigration.


“There is no group more sensitive to our issue,” Rivlin said. “There are folks who want to divide [these communities].”


African Americans have a direct interest in immigration reform, Shelton said, not only because a large number of these immigrants are black, but also because the only group benefiting from current immigration laws are companies that illegally hire immigrants and disregard standard employment practices.


“There is too much interest on border control and not enough interest in how immigrants are treated in this country once they are here,” Shelton said.


He said that it is important that the civil rights of immigrants be protected once they are here, regardless of their background.


The NAACP’s plan for immigration reform largely mirrors that of the National Immigration Forum, but adds a few components.


“Current immigration policies do not address the quota system that unfairly discriminates against immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean entering the country on valid work, travel and student visas,” Shelton said.

Far fewer visas are available to immigrants coming from those countries than from European countries, he said. The NAACP would like to see the system adjusted to accommodate the growing number of people from African and the Caribbean who want to live and work in the United States.


Shelton was also critical of Mexican President Vicente Fox’s assertion last year that Mexican immigrants are important to the United States because they do jobs that “your black won’t do.”


“I disagree that blacks won’t do these jobs,” said Shelton. “They simply expect decent pay and benefits.”


The NAACP has outlines a resolution for immigration reform that in addition to visa and quota issues, addresses job training programs, labor protection and many other employment-related reforms that would help protect all Americans, Shelton said.


The NAACP’s position is that undocumented workers now in the country need tobe made citizens and given full civil rights, including fair employment protections, he said. The organization points out that the current immigration policies are a “blueprint for exploitation of workers, both foreign-born and native.”