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Immigration Reform Proponents Must Consider Results From 100 Years Ago | Commentary

Some 3 million of these Americans have college degrees. Another 5.5 million have some college, while 6 million have only a high school diploma and more than 2 million don’t. In short, there are millions of Americans at every educational level who are looking for jobs at every skill level. And that doesn’t count the tens of millions of working-age Americans who aren’t in the labor market at all, having given up long ago.

Among the most neglected in this economy are young Hispanic-American citizens whose broad unemployment rate among those age 18-29 is around 18 percent for those with some college, 27 percent for those with only a high school diploma and 37 percent if they have less than a diploma.

Even more neglected are the young descendants of Americans who suffered in slavery, with the broad unemployment rate around 26 percent for black Americans with some college, 39 percent for those with only a high school diploma and 57 percent for those with less than a diploma.

A century ago, a war forced a change on employers and required them to recruit from American groups they previously hadn’t considered. The thrill of what that did for our nation was famously captured by a Fortune magazine spread of 60 paintings in 1941. “The Migration Series” by Jacob Lawrence depicted northern employers flooding the South with labor agents. “All other sources of labor having been exhausted, the migrants [southern blacks] were the last resource,” reads the caption under one panel.

It should not take a war to bring these benefits to economically suffering Americans. Congress can immediately create the same conditions. Just imagine how this nation would change if employers needed labor urgently enough to send armies of recruiters into the inner cities, barrios and depressed rural economies of today. It is an option that now should be in the middle of all immigration debate in Congress.

Roy Beck is president of the NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.

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