Friday, July 23, 2010

Race and Ethnicity in Immigration: Employment or Violence?

Is there a connection between U.S. immigration policy, Latina/o employment, and black violence across this country? Yes, say LSU researchers Edward S. Shihadeh and Raymond E. Barranco in their recently issued report, “Latino Employment and Black Violence: The Unintended Consequence of U.S. Immigration Policy”. To compile their report, Shihadeh and Barranco studied 117 major U.S. cities to examine the links, if any, between Latina/o immigration and black crime. Their detailed report unfolds in four stages. Shihadeh and Barranco first examined the direct, overall linkage before considering more specific variables, including whether Latino immigration “increases black crime by shifting the ethnic composition of low-skill labor markets in Latinos’ favor.” In the end, their data “suggests” that black violence rises in those areas where blacks lose ground to Latinas/os in the competition for low-skilled jobs. While specifying that they do not “advocate restricting the flow of Latino migrants—in either direction,” Shihadeh and Barranco emphasize that their study documents “black structural disadvantage and how U.S. immigration policy contributes to the formation of the underclass.”

Clearly, these findings can be made explosive. Demagogues interested in wedge politics can try to spin this information as a brown versus black field of conflict. But, as Shihadeh and Barranco emphasize, this information also points to the linkage of brown and black disadvantage under the rule of white privilege. Which will it be? Will data like these push us to build race/ethnicity coalitions capable of delivering social justice across brown/black color lines, or will racial and ethnic minorities continue to allow established majoritarian groups and their politicians to play traditionalist identity politics and set things up so that outgroups end up fighting each other for the crumbs at the edge of society?


By Frank Valdes

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