a friend led me to this article in the chicago sun times last week... i thought it was interesting.... Help illegal immigrants, but boost young blacks, too March 30, 2006 BY MARY MITCHELL SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST Although some people are comparing recent demonstrations by Latinos over immigration reform to historic civil rights marches, there's more than a subtle difference. Blacks were legal citizens who were demanding to be treated like legal citizens. Illegal immigrants don't have that platform. Yet, there are advocates who have argued, rather convincingly, that breaking U.S. immigration laws is not such a bad thing, especially when American businesses are demanding cheap labor. Even without criminal penalties, any immigration bill that comes out of Congress won't be a noble document that reflects our nation's compassion toward the tired, poor and huddled masses. It will be one that protects corporate interests. Protests, held in urban cities across the United States as the Senate prepares to debate a crackdown on illegal immigration, forced elected officials to take a closer look at our current demographics. What viewers saw on television as hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families protested -- many of whom were wrapped in their native countries' flags -- was an eye-opener. A second chance When a massive protest over immigration reform tied up traffic in the Loop recently, several passengers on a Metra train complained about the "nerve" of "those people." Some were annoyed enough to make rude remarks within earshot of flag-waving protesters. Among them were blacks, which raises an issue that has been muted throughout the debate. If the Bush White House is worried that the immigration reform issue will drive a wedge between Republicans, then black political leaders ought to be doubly concerned. According to the latest estimates, about 11 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the United States. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that although these illegal immigrants are less likely to have high school diplomas, they are more likely to hold jobs. At the same time, black intellectuals are debating other scholarly studies that show that even in a booming labor market, uneducated young black men were worse off than ever. A New York Times story that looked at the studies reported that in 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20s were jobless. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts," the publication reported. Even more alarming, the studies found that by 2004, 21 percent of black men in their 20s who weren't in college were in jail or prison. So what does it really mean that nine in 10 males illegally in the United States are in the labor force, as the Pew Hispanic Center claims? Deep down inside, most black people suspect that the same business owners who wink at fraudulent documents and hire an illegal worker named Jesus, will toss Jamal's job application in the trash if he checks off the box that indicates he's been arrested or imprisoned for a crime. And black citizens know that most of those crimes are related to the drug trade. Unlike uneducated illegal immigrants who make their money off the books working in agriculture, construction and the restaurant and hotel industry, many of the young, black high school dropouts who were locked up were making their living supplying drugs to the millions of American drug users -- the white, suburban druggies who picked up their narcotics in gang-infested neighborhoods and drove back to the safety of their own communities. But there are few advocates, if any, who argue that, having broken our laws, these young drug suppliers should be given a second chance. The humane thing to do Don't get me wrong. Forgiving the original sins of some 11 million undocumented immigrants is absolutely the humane thing to do. Still, if Congress now has the political will to tackle the illegal immigration issue -- not by a crackdown that would punish offenders for slipping across the borders and committing fraud to obtain employment, but by offering up a backdoor amnesty that will allow millions of illegal immigrants to become American citizens -- then why can't we do the same for young black males who once worked in the drug trade? In many states, these men can't vote, they can't work in most professions, they can't live in public housing, they can't get student loans, can't even find a job picking fruit or mopping floors. When they leave prison in their 30s or 40s, they will leave without any real hope of finding employment. If Congress passes a bill that wipes the slate clean for illegal immigrants, they should be pressured by black political leaders to do no less for the millions of black families who were exploited by America's underground drug trade. Just as legal immigrants joined hands with illegal immigrants to take a stand, middle-income blacks must join with low-income blacks to do the same.