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Hundreds of people from across the country gathered outside the U.S. Capitol today to rally against the Senate's immigration bill. Their big worry: that it would grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants and take jobs away from struggling citizens, especially struggling African-Americans, as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Patty Pitchford does not consider herself racist. She's a black woman from L.A. who says she has learned to accept outsiders.
PATTY PITCHFORD: In my family, I have Vietnamese. In my family, I have Spanish. In my family, I have white. In my family, I have Trinidad. In my family, I have African.
CHANG: But Pitchford says she's noticed something she finds troubling in recent years in the county social services office where she works: They're hiring more and more Spanish speakers.
PITCHFORD: If this amnesty pass, they will be taking our jobs. They're already taking over, period.
CHANG: It's no secret, she says, unemployment is highest among black communities. It's about 13 percent now, almost twice the national average. So rally-goers ask, why would the country offer 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship? That's a path to fewer jobs for low-skilled black workers who are ready to work now.
REPRESENTATIVE MO BROOKS: Well, these are American jobs for American citizens.
CHANG: That's Republican Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama. He says illegal immigrants will also bleed the country dry.
BROOKS: The Senate Gang of Eight bill brings in people who are going to be net tax consumers, not net tax producers.
CHANG: Brooks and others say amnesty for illegal immigrants would also eradicate the rule of law. But ultimately, today's rally focused on workers, especially black workers who will have to compete with people willing to work in worse conditions for less pay, they say. And Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa says it's all orchestrated by the powerful.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING: Elitists who want cheap labor to clean their houses and mow their lawn. Then you have powerbrokers, politically, that know that it's cheap votes. And then you have employers of illegal labor who want more cheap labor.
CHANG: Supporters of the bill say low-skilled jobs are going unfilled because many Americans just don't want them. They also point to a congressional study that shows the Senate immigration bill would cut the deficit and improve the economy. In any event, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants faces slim, if any, chances in the House. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.
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