Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Collective Prosperity: The Power of a Multiethnic Agenda, a New York Model

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Collective Prosperity: The Power of a Multiethnic Agenda, a New York Model

Article excerpt


Black members of the Minutemen, a militia born from White supremacy, appear as the face of mass media's coverage of anti-immigrant protest. Lou Dobbs, the corporate-turned-populist commentator, champions the cause of African Americans harmed by undocumented immigrants. Labor economist George Borjas of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government reaches new levels of popularity with his arguments that recent immigrants' arrival is a source of negative competition for African Americans seeking jobs.

The sudden mainstream interest in the plight of the African American community may seem surprising, yet it is predictable. The argument is one that has been widely accepted and shared, and has even served as the basis for several legislative initiatives attempting to deny immigrant rights. For those interested in advancing the rights of both groups, therefore, advocacy must address these real and perceived divisions.

While there is no consensus on the relationship between the rights of Latinos, African Americans, and other groups of immigrants, there is wide agreement that the members of each group are second-class citizens (Johnson 1998). Race and immigration status are categories of formal and informal, legal and substantive exclusion.

A growing community of immigration scholars and political leaders are calling for "Black-brown solidarity," based on a historical analysis of race as the primary vehicle of class organization and oppression in the United States in efforts to unite the electoral bases against White supremacist and nativist agendas. Whether distant or urgent, this solidarity call is mostly symbolic. A Black leader at an immigrant rights press conference; diverse faces standing together to advocate pluralistic democracy; enlightened elected leaders calling on constituents to love thy brother.

But a language of shared values cannot replace the achievement of shared interests. As the chorus for Black-brown solidarity grows, so does the burden of its leadership. Latinos, African Americans, and other immigrant groups share more than just values. We share targets and demands.

This article takes the workplace and the jail--to explore how meaningful material alliances may be forged between Black and brown, citizen and noncitizen communities. Focusing on New York City as a global city at the forefront of multiethnic demographic changes and post-Fordist economic trends, we will (1) explore the complicated and converging relationship between immigration status and race; (2) illustrate the centrality of multiethnic organizing in the city's restaurant industry for building a labor movement that relies on immigrant recruitment; and (3) expose how the dramatic increase of noncitizens and immigration enforcement in the criminal justice system is redefining core concerns for immigration scholarship and advocacy. We conclude that solidarity between Latinos, African Americans, and other immigrant groups is as strategic as it is lofty. When transformed into interest-based research and campaigns, the bonds between Latinos, African Americans, and other immigrant groups may prove to be the critical vehicle in defining a viable domestic human rights agenda.

Race in a Global City--New York City

While New York City's native-born population declined over a decade, the immigrant population grew by 38 percent. Nationwide, one in ten people are foreign-born, and in New York, one in three are foreign-born (NYCDCP 2004). Like the rest of the country, after the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act allowed for family sponsorship and skills-based entry into the United States, large numbers of new Latinos and Asians flooded New York City (Millman 1997, NYCDCP 2004). After 1970, however, not only did the city experienced tremendous growth in the numbers of Dominicans, Haitians, and Guyanese, it also drew in Asians and Russians after the fall of the Soviet Union. …

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